London Firefighter Reveals Exactly Why Grenfell Residents Were Told To Stay In Flats

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On Wednesday morning we all awoke to scenes of unspeakable tragedy. A tower block full of people engulfed in raging fire.

The fire went on for 24-hours destroying everything in its path including the lives of countless individuals and all of their belongings.

As we gazed helplessly at the news as the inferno continued to obliterate everything it touched, firefighters could be seen running up the stairwells and on ladders beside the tower as burning debris rained down over them.

Now, a serving London firefighter – who was not at the Grenfell Tower disaster – has done an Ask Me Anything on Reddit, explaining why the fire service did some of the things they did.

One of the questions he answered was why firefighters told residents to stay in their homes:

He replied:

In a block of flats there is usually a stairwell that runs the height of the building, if there is a fire on the 5th floor for example, as soon as we open the front door to tackle the fire, the lobby, and the stairwell will fill with smoke and unburnt fire gases throughout the height of the building above the 5th floor. If you were living on floors above the fire you would have to be breathing in this smoke and toxic fumes whilst making your way down. Your best choice is to stay in your flat, cover the edges of doors with blankets etc, let the fire brigade know that you are in your property. What appears to have happened yesterday is completely unique. Staying in your flat is 99.9% of the time the safest thing to do. If you are in a house, then getting out of the property is a lot more feasible. With regards to your mate she should go to one of the many open days or community events the brigade attends.

He also explained a lot about their working hours:

Goonia said of the services efficiency:

Yes that’s correct, it should be 3 hours at an incident. With large incidents like this, outer lying stations which have 2 appliances will send one of theirs to be temporarily based at the stations which were attending Grenfell. I know that all the Fire Rescue Units (basically a specialist appliance) were in attendance there. So I’m not sure what was being sent to any car accidents or chemical shouts yesterday as you usually have a minimum of one in attendance at those incidents. You may have 40 appliances at grenfell, when they relieve the crews there you will have a number of appliances returning to Base stations which are unavailable, so there will be less appliances in London.

And how they manage to eat:

He explained:

The Salvation Army (they never get the credit or recognition they deserve) will turn up at anything above an 8 pump fire, with volunteers, in a towed food canteen (a bit like a lay by burger trailer) they make sandwiches and give out chocolates and crisps as well as hot drinks and cold drinks. They are a god send. I cant stress that enough. Hats off to them. You shouldn’t be at an incident for longer than 3 hours before being switched by a relief crew. This went out the window yesterday.

And of cuts to the fire service:

He said:

It’s too early to say with regards to this incident, I wasn’t there, I’m sure the subsequent investigations will conclude about that. With regards to day to day operations, there are now less fire stations and fire engines in London, so we are travelling further and hence longer to reach incidents. Grenfell Tower isn’t in an area that has had a local station cut as far as I know. The minimum numbers of people on certain types of fire engines have been lowered from 5 to 4, so it makes that crew work harder and potentially need to order on a second appliance with 4 more, just to cover the need for an extra person. The shift patterns changed 6 years ago, so we now finish at 8pm rather than 6pm, so it makes going home between shifts pretty much pointless for some people who live far away.

The information given by this firefighter serves as a fascinating insight into the fire service at a time when we need to know more about them than ever.

So far the death toll from the Grenfell Tower fire stands at 30 with police expecting it to get, tragically, much higher.

Our thoughts continue to go out to all those affected by these horrendous events.


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Joseph Loftus

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.