A PLUMSTEAD woman would have died in her burning flat if planned fire station closures had already gone ahead, a union claims.

The Fire Brigade Union (FBU) claims the prompt arrival of a fire engine from Woolwich station - under threat of closure - was crucial in saving the woman's life earlier this month, after a crew from Plumstead were held up in heavy traffic.

And on Wednesday (March 27), Greenwich Council's Labour group will claim that the area has the fourth highest figures for serious fires in the whole capital.

Under plans by Mayor of London Boris Johnson, 12 stations including Woolwich will be axed along with 18 engines and 520 frontline posts.

But FBU regional secretary for London Paul Embery said an incident on March 15 at a ground floor flat in Pelthorne Grove on Plumstead's Glyndon Estate, was proof of how vital it is not to make the cuts.

He said the Plumstead appliance was caught in heavy traffic, meaning that the engine from Woolwich station arrived first on the scene at 12.34pm.

Firefighters used breathing apparatus to enter the flat and found the woman unconscious in a back bedroom.

They pulled her to safety before administering emergency first aid.

Mr Embery said a further five minutes passed before the engine from Plumstead arrived and the woman was taken to hospital by ambulance suffering from smoke inhalation. She is still there.

He said: "This incident illustrates why Boris Johnson's plans are utterly reckless.

"The casualty was trapped in a serious fire and managed to maintain a phone dialogue with the brigade's control operator before being overcome and lapsing into unconsciousness.

"Crews from Woolwich performed magnificently, and their speed and professionalism saved the woman's life with seconds to spare.

"I have absolutely no doubt this woman would have died if Woolwich fire station had already closed."

Neighbour Janet Jones, aged 60, told News Shopper a resident had to kick the woman's door open while the alarm was sounded.

She said: "Firemen risk their lives for us. It's just disgusting to treat them like this.

"They're putting lives in danger by proposing cutting our fire stations."


"Impossible to speculate"

A spokeswoman for the London Fire Brigade said: “It is impossible for anyone to speculate about what may or may not have happened under different circumstances.

“Fire engines are regularly moved around, for example when firefighters are training, but this does not mean that areas are without fire cover, or that local people are at risk.

“A public consultation on the future of London Fire Brigade started on March 4, and will run for at least 12 weeks.

"The Brigade is encouraging all Londoners to take part, with full details of public meetings and consultation forms on the Brigade’s website.”

To take part in the consultation visit the website.

A series of public meetings are also being held on the proposals, though there is no fixed Greenwich one yet.


'Politically-biased decision'

The closure of Woolwich fire station will be discussed at the town hall on Wednesday night as Labour councillors call on the mayor to abandon his proposal.

They claim the Woolwich Riverside ward, which covers the town centre and is an area of high population growth, has the fourth highest level of serious fires in London.

London Fire Brigade statistics show there have been 31 serious fires in that ward over the past year.

The motion states: "Council calls on the Mayor of London to abandon what looks like a politically biased consultation on fire station closures and to protect the existing and valuable service in Woolwich."