Fire commissioner Ron Dobson is to recommend the permanent removal of 13 fire engines despite the majority of those taking part in a public consultation opposing their axing.
The engines were first withdrawn from day-to-day service in August 2013 to ensure that private contractors had sufficient equipment to provide emergency cover during strikes by Fire Brigades Union members.
Last year the commissioner recommended axing them permanently to meet budget cuts, arguing that doing so would not adversely impact response times.
A majority of members on the fire authority, which employs Mr Dobson, opposed his recommendation and backed an alternative budget proposal which would retain the engines but move to a single crew at stations which operate specialist appliances such as aerial ladder platforms alongside a fire engine.
This would mean that either the engine or the specialist appliance could be deployed but not both at once.
Mayor Boris Johnson ordered the authority to hold a public consultation on the competing proposals before they took a final decision.
According to a report to be considered at the fire authority next week, 70 percent of consultation respondents backed retaining the engines although axing them was backed in submissions from the London Ambulance Service and NHS London.
Announcing his decision to recommend the engines’ removal, Mr Dobson said: “The consultation process is extremely important and I thank everyone who took part. I have been involved in every public meeting and have listened carefully to the views of everyone that has contributed.
“The 13 fire engines have been out of service for over two and a half years and that impact has seen us maintain our response within our average attendance time targets of six minutes for a first fire engine and eight minutes for a second.
“I appreciate that the removal of fire engines is not popular and but I maintain that in my professional opinion this is the correct way to balance our budget. Alternate crewing is an option with merit which is worth exploring further, but I consider the proposal to alternate crews Fire Rescue Units to be operationally unworkable at this time and therefore can not recommend this option.
“Fire engines do not stop fires happening – proactive prevention work does and under my proposals we will be able to provide better levels of protection to those most vulnerable members of our society who are disproportionally dying in avoidable fires.”
The full authority will consider the commissioner’s report on Wednesday, 17 February. If members vote for the alternative proposal it’s possible that Mayor Johnson will use his powers to overrule them, as he has previously.
Commenting on the consultation responses, Labour’s fire spokesperson, Fiona Twycross AM, said: “It’s no surprise that Londoners don’t want to see more fire engines axed given that the last time Boris Johnson cut the fire service, closing ten fire stations and scrapping 14 fire engines, the result was a significant increase in the time it takes engines to reach fires.
“With 70% of Londoners against these plans, and with strong and fully costed alternatives on the table, it is time the Mayor listened to what Londoners are telling him and backed down from this plan to axe yet more fire engines.
“Far from being the ‘pointless vehicles’ the Mayor describes, these fire engines and their crews save lives. Scrapping them would unnecessarily increase the risk to Londoners.”