A GWENT Valleys fire station has been recommended for closure despite a massive show of opposition that has delayed a decision for almost four months.
South Wales Fire Authority will next week be asked to approve in principle the closure of Blaina fire station, subject to independent post-decision scrutiny by Blaenau Gwent councillors.
The proposal will revive the blizzard of protest stirred up in Blaina last autumn when it was first aired following a major review of fire cover by South Wales Fire and Rescue.
And the widow of one of two Blaina firefighters who lost their lives during a blaze at a house in the village 18 years ago, has spoken of her anger and heartbreak at the prospect of closure.
Margaret Griffin’s husband Steven died with colleague Kevin Lane when they entered a burning house on Zephaniah Way, Blaina, on February 1 1996, believing a three-year-old boy was trapped inside.
Mrs Griffin was a leading voice among last autumn’s protesters, and she hoped the size of the opposition to the closure proposal, and the arguments made against it in terms of issues such as response times and the station’s history and place in the community, would win the day.
A proposal to close Blaina fire station was always going to provoke powerful emotions, given the deaths of Mr Griffin and Mr Lane, and the trauma they visited on the community.
Though finance is always a factor in such matters, the argument for closure centred on a study predicting there will be no increase in deaths as a result, a conclusion with which many living in the area disagree.
A decision was due last autumn but such was the volume of response to consultation on closure – the vast majority of it against, and which takes up most of the 774 pages of appendices attached to the proposals report – that it has been delayed until South Wales Fire Authority meets at its Llantrisant headquarters next Monday, March 24.
“I honestly thought we had made a strong case to keep the station open, so this is heartbreaking,” said Mrs Griffin.
“I feel like we have been badly let down – my family, Kevin’s family, all the boys at the station, and the whole community.
“The last few months, it just feels like they have been paying lip service to us. This has opened up a lot of wounds. But we’ve fought very hard, made a very good case, and we will not go down without a fight.”
Mrs Griffin intends to be at the fire authority meeting at its Llantrisant headquarters next Monday, and given the opposition to the closure proposal she is unlikely to be alone.
The fire authority will also be asked next Monday to approve in principle another proposal first aired last autumn – to remove the second appliance currently at Cwmbran fire station, though this again would be subject to post-decision scrutiny, this time by Torfaen councillors.