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Petition launched to save London Fire Brigade Museum

Campaigners fighting to save the London Fire Brigade Museum in Southwark Bridge Road have launched a petition and Facebook group to gather support for their cause.

Winchester house, Southwark
Historic Winchester House, home of Sir Eyre Massey Shaw, London's first fire chief, is home to the LFB's museum

Last month we revealed fire authority chair Brian Coleman's wish to shut the museum which attracts about 6,000 visitors a year to its premises at Winchester House in Southwark Bridge Road.

Speaking at a City Hall committee meeting, Mr Coleman told London Assembly colleagues that the museum "no longer serves a useful purpose for Londoners".

But it is Mr Coleman's flippant remark that "once you've seen one brass helmet you have seen them all" that has offended firefighters past and present who describe it as an insult to the courage and bravery of those who risk their lives to keep Londoners safe.

Kevin Flude, who runs the Old Operating Theatre Museum near London Bridge, has described Mr Coleman's comments as "breathtakingly ignorant" and museums expert Bridget McKenzie, who has fought to save the Livesey Museum in Old Kent Road, is also unimpressed by the rationale for the proposed closure.

Now some of the volunteers who help the two paid staff to run the London Fire Brigade Museum have launched a petition and Facebook group to persuade Mr Coleman to reconsider his plan to axe the much-loved museum. Members of the public are also being encouraged to write to Mayor of London Boris Johnson and fire brigade commissioner Ron Dobson to voice their opinions.

Members of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority – which includes politicians of all parties – will receive proposals for next year's fire brigade budget at their meeting on 20 November and the closure of the museum is expected to be one of the options for consideration.

The campaigners point out that many of the museum's exhibits have been donated or loaned by former firefighters or their families and argue that the legal and moral implications of splitting up or moving the collection have not been fully considered.

The museum's supporters are mystified by Mr Coleman's adamance that the museum should be axed when its running costs – less than 80,000 a year – are relatively small and to shut the museum, disperse the collection and make its staff redundant would be likely to incur significant expense.

About half the museum's visitors are schoolchildren – many from Southwark and Lambeth – whilst students and researchers from around the world make constant use of the brigade's archive, library and photographic collection.

• The museum is taking part in The Big Draw this month and people of all ages are invited to come and draw the collection of fire engines on Monday 13, Tuesday 14 and Friday 17 October.

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