So I arrive at the Fire station this evening, my first shift since the horrendous tower block fire. The Red Watch are on duty today and I’m quite sure some of them where called to it.
I spend half an hour talking to someone who attended the fire. Throughout the whole conversation he was visibly upset but wanted to talk and tell his story.
He told me that on the approach looking out of the windows in the truck he thought there was no way firefighters would be allowed to enter due to the ferociousness of the fire. He had never seen anything like it in a career spanning well over 20 years.
He told me how helpful the Riot Police were in getting them to the actual building and how they were amazed that the Brigade were actually making there way up the internal staircase.
He genuinely didn’t think the building would stay intact. We would never ever enter a building without water to fight the fire, however burning debris had consistently been dropping onto the hoses and burning through them, so he had no water. His brief was to make it up to the 9th floor and search the flats on that floor. He could not see further than 6″ in front of his breathing mask and the heat was intense. He passed firefighters attending to casualties on the stairwell. Past floor 5 there were no actual markings on the stairs to tell them what floor they were on.
Communications broke down between him and officers outside the building.
He arrived on what he thought was the 9th floor which he later learnt was the 11th floor. He broke into a flat and rescued a family that had actually filled a bath full of water and let it overflow so they could lie in puddles of water to keep cool and avoid the poisonous gasses caused by the fire above their heads. He led them down to safety and then re entered the building to continue searching having confirmed that other crews were searching the 9th floor.He told me that there were fire fighters taking off their breathing masks so casualties could breath clean air before leading them downstairs to safety on higher floors.
When he finished I put my hand on his shoulder and told him that he was a hero, his reply.. no my brief was to search the 9th floor and I searched the 11th floor.
He struggled to accept that he probably saved the lives of the family on the 11th and other crews had searched the 9th floor anyway.
What an understated legend and a hero!