Thousands in fight to protect Blaina and Cwmbran fire services
9:34am Friday 27th September 2013 in Pontypool news
MORE than 4,000 people are opposing plans to shut a Valleys fire station and scrap an appliance in Torfaen to save cash.
Meanwhile, dozens of people gathered in front of Blaina fire station for over two hours on Wednesday night in a show of support for the 14 retained fire officers who work there.
South Wales Fire and Rescue Service has proposed to shut Blaina fire station and scrap a retained appliance at Cwmbran fire station, manned by 17 retained firefighters.
The Argus has asked South Wales Fire and Rescue Service if the plans would result in job losses but has not received a response.
Chief fire officer Huw Jakeway was booed by some as he entered Blaina fire station to speak to staff inside about the proposals, which forms part of an ongoing fire cover review, while children waved placards and staged a sit-down protest.
But a woman who lost her firefighter husband in blaze in the 1990s asked those booing to stop and has now made a personal plea to the chief fire officer: “Save our station". Margaret Griffin lost her husband Stephen when he entered a burning house on Zephaniah Way in Blaina, on February 1, 1996, along with colleague Kevin Lane, in an effort to try to save a three-year-old boy they believed to be trapped inside.
Five-year-old Daniel Harford also died in the fire, and as a result of the incident, all Blaina firefighters were given the Freedom of the Borough. Mrs Griffin, 59, said the show of support on Wednesday was fantastic.
“The station is the only monument we’ve got to the two firefighters who died,” she said. “On Wednesday night someone said we had paid for that station over and over again, we’ve even paid with lives.”
Feeling faint due to hunger Mrs Griffin was offered a seat inside the fire station during the protest, and through the office window saw her husband’s old coat peg, along with his colleague’s, which have been left empty ever since, she said.
“On the phone to the chief officer I told him we would not go down without a fight,” said Mrs Griffin.
“After the protest he went outside and talked to people, I can only admire the man. I really believe he is genuine and I don’t think anybody wants to close the station.”
On Wednesday night, Blaenau Gwent council leader Hedley McCarthy wrote on Facebook that the county owes Blaina station “a debt of honour” for the men who gave their lives in 1996.
There will a second peaceful demonstration outside the Ebbw Vale Civic Centre at 12.30pm on October 7. Mr Jakeway will be attending to speak to councillors.
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