London News & Search
Firefighters have told how they were ready die if the burning Grenfell Tower collapsed as they battled to save ‘every single person’.
A new ITV documentary, Inside London Fire Brigade, on Thursday night will focus on firefighters’ response to the disaster on June 14 that claimed at least 80 lives.
Firefighters said they had never seen such a devastating blaze before but it did not alter their determination to rescue every person they could.
London Fire Brigade commander Richard Welch said: “We had no intention of coming out of there until we had saved as many people as we could. If it was going to collapse, then we were going to die trying.
“Every single person within that building was willing to lose their own life to try to save others.
“Every single person.”
He added: “My pager went off at 01:18 to inform me of a flat fire at Grenfell Tower. Initially they had six machines there. Then they asked for eight, and then 10, and then 15, 20 and then 25.
“I’m hearing that on the way there, so it’s becoming really clear that we’ve got quite a serious incident going on,
“One of the first things I did was actually declare it a major incident because I knew we were going to need a lot of help.”
His colleague London Borough commander Steve Dudeney said: “You know there were firefighters laying about with haunted looks in their eyes. After 30 years in the London Fire Brigade I didn’t ever expect to see anything like that. And I pray to God I never will again.”
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Another senior officer. Pat Goulbourne, had visited the building in the past.
He said: “As I was approaching it, I just knew we had probably the job of our lives on the go because already I could see fire from the lower floors and I couldn’t believe I was looking at fire to the top floor.
“I’ve never seen anything like that, ever. The fire was changing, it was moving rapidly.”
Hundreds of people had been inside Grenfell Tower when the fire took hold on June 14, many of whom heeded official fire safety advice to stay put in their flats.
Others however fled their homes as choking fumes began to envelope the corridors.
Mr Goulbourne continued: “You could hear people screaming for help. There were people making signals for help.
“It was dreadful. There are hundreds of people in there. Men, women, children were coming out fully sooted. Black. They had been through a layer of smoke in complete distress.”
The perilous state of the stairwell also further complicated the rescue effort, Mr Welch explained.
He said: “We had our hoses going up the staircase. We had people trying to get out coming down the staircase.
“We’ve got firefighters going up the staircase and the staircase was filling with smoke. So the priority was really to try to reach the flats we knew had people in. The issue we had was the intensity of the fire.
“There was the potential for the building to collapse.”
Though later episodes of the three-part series will feature body-camera footage from the firefighters, the first programme, which focuses on Grenfell, will not include any images from inside the tower.
The Grenfell Tower fire occurred on June 14 when a blaze ripped through a 24-storey block of flats in the London area of North Kensington.
The fire, which killed at least 80 people and injured 70, was intensified by low-cost cladding that had been added to the building during a recent renovation project.
Earlier this week it was revealed that around 30 police officers and firefighters have been in contact with post-traumatic stress charity PTSD999 seeking support following the Grenfell fire and recent terror attacks.
Meanwhile victims of the blaze are said to still be struggling to find permanent housing after losing their homes.
Inside London Fire Brigade airs on July 27 at 9pm on ITV.
London News & Search