The devastating impact of the fire station cuts, enforced by London mayor Boris Johnson, was visible in the tears that ran down the cheeks of some of the capital's toughest men, on their last shifts in their stations.
Fire fighters embraced each other, squeezing hands and shoulders outside Clerkenwell and Westminster Fire stations on Thursday.
Westminster station, which was opened in 1906, is closing along with nine others in the capital as part of a £29m cost cutting plan which involves the loss of 550 firefighters jobs and 14 fire engines.
Fireman Alex Badcock is overcome with emotion as he walks out of Clerkenwell fire station
At Clerkenwell Fire Station, which at more than 140 years old is the oldest in the country, fireman Alex Badcock looked stricken as he walked out of the station gate, covering his mouth with his hands.
TOP STORIES TODAY
He had worked there for 29 years. Colleagues who filtered out after him held each other tightly.
The fire fighters had been forbidden from wearing their uniforms by bosses as they came out to greet supporters, holding a vigil outside the building.
"This is a sad, sad day. Boris Johnson doesn't know what he's doing," Badcock told those gathered outside.
Fireman Alex Badcock (C) is comforted by colleagues
None of the fire stations have yet been sold, but campaigners believe they are set to be converted into luxury flats.
James Cleverly, chairman of the capital's fire authority, said in a statement: "Londoners will continue to receive one of the fastest emergency response times in the world from the London Fire Brigade.
"If you dial 999 and need a fire engine, we still aim to have one with you within six minutes and a second, if needed, within eight.
"The brigade is faced with significant budget cuts which mean that changes to the service are inevitable and we are able to make those changes without compulsory redundancies.
Firefighters stand outside Westminster Fire station after their last ever shift
"The firefighters based at the stations closing will now transfer to other stations and continue the excellent work they do to prevent fires, which is vital in changing the behaviours that start fires in the first place."
Paul Embery, London regional secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said: "Boris Johnson will have blood on his hands. It will be only a matter of time before someone dies because a fire engine did not get to them in time.
"You cannot close 10 fire stations and slash nearly 600 firefighter jobs without compromising public safety. These stations have protected generations of Londoners, and they are as necessary now as they ever were."
The fire stations closing are at Belsize, Bow, Clerkenwell, Downham, Kingsland, Knightsbridge, Silvertown, Southwark, Westminster and Woolwich.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of the article said the fire stations are set to be converted into luxury flats. None have been sold yet, this is only the belief of anti-closure activists.
Suggested For You
SUBSCRIBE AND FOLLOW
Get top stories and blog posts emailed to me each day. Newsletters may offer personalized content or advertisements.Learn more