1. ITV Report

Grenfell Tower: Firefighters speak for first time about hellish scenes during blaze

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Dan Rivers

Firefighters who battled the Grenfell Tower inferno have recalled the hellish scenes they encountered during the deadly blaze last month.

In an ITV documentary to be broadcast on Thursday, commanders from the London Fire Brigade described how every member of their rescue team was prepared to die during the rescue effort.

The scale of the crisis escalated rapidly as the blaze whipped up the structure in a matter of minutes, trapping dozens inside.

"After 30 years in the London Fire Brigade I didn't ever expect to see anything like that," Commander for the London Borough Steve Dudeney told the upcoming documentary. "And I pray to God I never will again."

Richard Welch, one of the senior officers at the scene, said: "Every single person within that building was willing to lose their own life to try to save others. Every single person."

London Fire Brigade Commander Richard Welch. Credit: ITV/Inside London Fire Brigade

Mr Welch, who was first alerted to the unfolding disaster early in the morning, told how the number of fire engines being requested at the scene quickly rose

Pat Goulbourne, another of the senior officers at the scene, 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."

London Fire Brigade Commander Pat Goulbourne. Credit: ITV/Inside London Fire Brigade

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."

Despite the valiance of the emergency response teams, at least 80 people died that night.

Mr Welch said: "There is a feeling of being extremely proud of what we did and how hard everyone worked.

"But there's also that horrific feeling of...we didn't get everybody. And we tried. Really hard."

  • Inside London Fire Brigade is a three-part series which will begin with the Grenfell Tower fire on Thursday at 9pm on ITV