Fire brigade missing response time target in 11 boroughs

© Michael Spring |

Photo: Michael Spring |

The average response time for the fire service in 11 boroughs is longer than the 6-minute target set by the London Fire Brigade.

The latest data shows that the average response time for the capital as a whole is well within the target.  In 2015 the average time it took from the fire brigade being alerted by a 999 operator to the first engine arriving at the scene was 5 minutes and 38 seconds.

The average is even faster in the City of London and the 13 boroughs that constitute inner London.  But only 8 of the 19 outer London boroughs met the target in 2015. In 2014 it was 15.  While the target is set for London as a whole the fire brigade says it aims to achieve this at borough level.

The slowest average response time is recorded in Hillingdon at 6 minutes and 45 seconds. The fastest is in Kensington and Chelsea, a full 2 minutes quicker at 4 minutes and 44 seconds.  The response time in Lambeth is also under 5 minutes.

fire service response

The response time is made up of two elements – the crew turn out time – how long it takes them to leave the fire station once alerted – and the travel time to the fire. The average turn out time for crews across London is 1 minute and 19 seconds, although crews in Newham have got the average down to 1 minute and 3 seconds.  The London Fire Brigade say that variation in turn out times is due to the layout of stations with times a little longer in older stations.

Travel times vary according to time of day and traffic conditions but also according to the location of fire stations.  The LFB says that the clustering of resources in inner London mean faster response times than in the outer areas of the city.

The London Fire Brigade deals with around 100,000 incidents per year.  The data shows that the attendance time of the first appliance was 6 minutes or under in 65% of calls.

The Brigade has 155 fire engines at 102 fire stations across London.  10 stations were controversially closed due to budget cuts in 2014 and a study by statistician Dr Benjamin Taylor at Lancaster University found that fewer than 50% of calls now met the 6 minute target in the areas around the closed station.

The London Fire Brigade says that it is committed to a principle that “Londoners should have equal entitlement to the fastest possible attendance times.”

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A fifth of the blazes tackled by fire fighters are started on purpose

A fifth of the blazes tackled by fire fighters are started on purpose

© Michael Spring |

Photo: © Michael Spring |

21% of the fires attended by the London Fire Brigade in the past year were started deliberately. The fire and rescue service tackled 19,554 fires in the 12 months to April and 4,122 are judged to have been started on purpose.

Borough level data from the London Fire Brigade shows that in Tower Hamlets deliberate fires make up a third of the 1,023 fires. There were 329 incidents, that’s more than the total of neighbouring Lewisham and Hackney combined.

fires deliberate

Tower Hamlets has the second highest number of fires per 1000 head of population.   The central London borough of Westminster has the highest level. Levels are lower in outer boroughs.

Fires all

Overall the number of fires in the capital in the year to April was down by 5% though there has been a slight upturn in April with the number of fires in the month exceeding 2000 for the first time since April 2011.

Fires peak over the summer months each year with July 2010 the worse month in the period reported with 4,728 fires.

fires annual

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The data behind failing ambulance response times

hThe London Ambulance Service responded to more than a million calls last year.  That works out at 2740 calls per day or 114 calls per hour.

Some areas of the capital are much busier than others. Data analysis by Urbs shows that the London wide borough average of calls per 1000 residents is 121. It is much higher in central London.

In the City of London it is 778 per thousand residents, reflecting the small numbers of residents compared to the large number of people working and socialising in the area. The figures for Westminster, Camden and Islington are also high on this measure. But some more residential outer London boroughs also have high call out rates. Barking and Dagenham, and Hilingdon are above the London average.

The service employs 4500 staff at 70 stations. It is under considerable pressure and currently failing to meet the national response time targets.  It should get to 75% of the immediately life-threatening incidents within 8 minutes.  Figures from the service for the six months to January this year show the monthly average of 62% or lower.  The head of the service, Ann Radmore, resigned in January.  Response times for February and March are yet to be published.

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Latest response times