I posted a ‘thank you’ to Hornsey firefighters for coming out on a 999 call to my house a little while back – with a very brief description of what had happened. At the end of last week, Brian Coleman, Conservative Chair of the London Fire Authority was all over the media attacking me for doing so. Although the Fire Brigade says I did the right thing to call them out – and would only have sent firefighters if they thought it necessary – he says I should pay; that it was comparable with calling them out for a pet stuck in a tree; he has called me ‘dizzy’, ‘an airhead’; ‘an utter disgrace’ and so on.
What I would say about this – and all the comment that has ensued in the media (Mr Coleman actually sent out press releases to attack me) – is that I and my two daughters were terrified and that is the point. The corner of the house was shaking. The noise was extreme. In those moments – it is the clear message of the Fire Brigade that steered me through. And their advice is if you think you are in danger get out of the house and call the Fire Brigade – which is exactly what I did.
Thank goodness there was no explosion – but it was serious and when the engineer came the next day he said that the jammed motor had been sparking and as well as causing the shaking and the noise and it could have ignited. The Hornsey firefighters, when they came, checked everything and made sure it was safe.
So as I simply followed the official advice of the Fire Brigade – I have been astonished that someone in Brian Coleman’s position (i.e. chair of the London Fire Authority) would undermine that message from the Fire Service – just to have a pop at someone in a different political party.
A London Fire Brigade spokeswoman said: “If it’s obvious that there has been an ongoing problem with the boiler, then you can call a plumber. But if your boiler suddenly starts making strange noises in the middle of the night, call the fire brigade.” Mine was the latter situation – and so both the Fire Commission and the firefighters on the night said I did the right thing.
As you may have seen – there’s been a fair few comments on this blog, so I just wanted to highlight a couple:
Hi as a serving firefighter, I can honestly say you did exactly the right thing in calling out your local fire service. The fire service has a responsibility to serve the community in all ways. Community safety is at the forefront of what we do, we would much rather see early action being taken than having to deal with the aftermath of a catastrophic failure. Your boiler could have potentially been life threatening either through a defective flue or indeed an explosion. May I suggest both a carbon monoxide detector and a smoke detector be fitted if you do not have either. Ready to serve and protect.
i am a fire fighter at hornsey fire station and although i am not a Libdem supporter and i was not on duty when you called us, i would like you to know that you did the correct thing. our job is to serve and protect the community and if you felt you and your family were in danger then you have a duty of care to call us asap. brian colemans comment shows how little he knows about the role of the LFB and his statement that your were dizzy is quite frankly extremely sexist and condescending, but what else can we expect from one of the mayors hand picked cronies.
I will be writing to the Commissioner of the London Fire Service – on two counts. Firstly, on the issue of how he will deal with a Chair of the Authority who is happy to send out a message which is completely contradictory to the ethic and central message of the Fire Service. Secondly, in a service in which there is a strong shift to move away from any discrimination or sexism – to ask what action he will take over having a Chair who thinks it is OK to denigrate women in the way Brian Coleman did. Those who know Mr Coleman say this is typical. But I don’t think you can hold such a responsible position and then say – well it’s politics, so it doesn’t count.