Less than a week ago, the UK awoke to news of an unspeakable tragedy.
A fire had devastated a London tower block killing at least 79 people and destroying the homes, property, and lives of hundreds more.
In the early hours of Wednesday morning, the fire broke out almost instantly turning Grenfell Tower into an inferno, most likely due to the ‘flammable’ cladding on the exterior of the building.
As with the many attrocities which have hit the UK in recent months, emergency services were incredibly quick on the scene and while most of us appreciate their life-risking work, understanding what they actually do is another matter.
A post made by Save the UK Fire Service, a Facebook page committed to preventing the endless cuts to the fire service, claimed a member of the fire brigade had shared his story with them of what he went through battling the Grenfell Tower blaze.
Sent to us at STUKFS Powerful and emotional story from a firefighter who attended Grenfell Tower….
I’m not sure if…
The harrowing and incredibly chilling post highlights the shocking decisions firefighters are forced to make when working on fires as big as this one.
You can read the majority of the post below:
We stood looking at the blaze waiting at entry control to be given instructions. My BA partner and I stood waiting with other firefighters waiting to see what information there was available. Then we received our brief… 23rd floor people stuck in their flat go!
23rd floor? I repeat back.. giving the flat number I received to the Watch manager. She confirms. I turned and told my BA the reality of how high we are going to try and go on a single cylinder of air.
Weighed down carrying 30kg+ of equipment not including our firekit and breathing apparatus (BA) we passed through entry control handing in our tallies and confirming our brief.
We made our way up a crowed stairwell struggling to make progress, at times unable to pass because of the amount of people on the stairs. The stairwells were full of other BA crews bringing people down all in various states and conditions.
The smoke grew thicker with each floor we went up. No proper floor numbers on the stairwells after about the 5th floor made it hard to know where you were. Someone before us had tried to write them on the wall with chinagraph pencil but this didn’t last long. The dirty smoke was covering the walls with a film of blackness.
The account continued:
Around the 9th floor we lost all visibility and the heat was rising. Still we continued up and up through the blackness. We reached what we believed to be the 19/20th floor but there was no way to tell. It was here where we found a couple trying to find their way out, panicking, choking, blinded by the thick toxic air.
A quick gauge check showed us that the amount of floors we’d climbed had taken its toll, we were getting low on air. There’s no way we could make it to the 23rd and back.
The couple were shouting and screaming at us through the coughing, trying to tell us there were 5 more people on the floor above!
Now I had horrible decisions to make and a very short amount of time to make them. In what I think would of been less than a minute these are all the things I had going through my head.
I will list a few of them for you. All of which I needed to consider before making my decision:
•Now that we’ve stopped and lost our rhythm on the stairs would we have enough air to leave this couple and try to reach the next floor?
•Was the information we are getting from these people was correct. After all they are frantically panicking as they choke and suffer from the heat.
•If we let them carry on down the stairs alone would they or could they find their own way out?
•If we went up another floor would we actually find the 5?
•If we found them what state would they be in? Could the two of us get that many out especially one or more are unconscious?
•How would we decide who to take?
•Do we have enough air to make it back down to safety ourselves from where we are?
•Should I be considering asking my BA partner, a new mother, to risk even more than she already has?
•Can I accept/live with the thought that saving two lives is better than taking the risk to go up and potentially saving no one?
Ahh!! Come on think…! Am I doing enough? Can I give more? Am I forgetting any of my training….?
Stop…. Breath….. Think…
And they weren’t the only questions going through the firefighter’s mind:
•Why haven’t we seen another crew for so long?
•Will another crew find them?
•Are we really where we think we are?
•The radios are playing up… have we missed a important message.
•Have all crews been pulled out?
•Is the structure still safe?
Come on make a decision… and make it quick these people are choking…….
Ok Ok Ok! Dam! Come on!! Think!! Right… ok. Decision made!
I do a double check… ask my partner… “Is it the right decision?” Ahhh. I’m doubting myself. Ahhh! There’s no time for this! Come on get on with it… Right! Make the call!
I try to radio down to entry control.
“Alpha Control Priority!”. No response…. “Alpha Control Priority!”. Still No response…. Where are they… what’s going on?!? “Alpha Control Priority!”
Alpha control responds… “Go a head with priority over”. Are they talking to me I can’t hear my call sign… Pass the message.
Alpha control.. Two casualties found approx 20th floor, crew now escorting them down, request another BA team be committed to reach flat on 23rd floor. Further traffic. 5 casualties are reported apparently trying to make their way out on the floor above. Over
Alpha control “Message received” Were they talking to me it broke up again…
Ok we really need to get out. “Let’s go! Grab my arm”.
You can read more of the terrifying story on the Facebook page itself.
Our thoughts go out to all those affected, including the countless brave men and women of the fire service, by the horrific blaze at Grenfell Tower last week.
Joseph Loftus is a Gold Standard NCTJ journalist with four years experience working for international and regional press.
As well as working for UNILAD and LADbible, Joseph has worked as Liverpool Correspondent for Unsigned & Independent Magazine, as well as stints with the Liverpool Echo and Warrington Guardian.