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Grenfell firefighter 'did not realise' the block had cladding as first

The first firefighter to lead the battle against the Grenfell Tower blaze has told an inquiry he did not realise the block had cladding when he arrived.

Michael Dowden, who was the first London Fire Brigade incident commander on the scene at Grenfell Tower

Michael Dowden, watch manager from North Kensington fire station, was the initial incident commander.

He said during a second day of evidence at the probe into the disaster that he arrived to see an "orange glow" coming from a kitchen window on the fourth floor.

The inquiry's main lawyer, Richard Millett QC, read him his statement from the night, saying: "It seemed contained within the compartment."

Most high-rise blocks in the UK are designed so any fires are contained within the flat of origin - known as compartmentation - allowing a stay-put policy for other residents to be enforced.

But the flammable cladding installed around the west London tower fatally undermined this advice, as it allowed a blaze to engulf the structure within minutes.

Mr Dowden and the first fire crew arrived just before 1am, around five minutes after the first emergency call at 12.54am, joined seconds later by another appliance.

Mr Millett asked the fire officer whether he made any assumptions about whether the cladding system complied with building regulations, to which he replied: "Not at that moment in time, that is not for the dynamic stage for an incident commander."

The lawyer continued: "Could you see that the exterior of the building was covered in a cladding envelope?"

Mr Dowden said: "At that point I wasn't aware it was cladding, at that point I thought it was the external part of Grenfell Tower."

He added: "I would have looked at the outside but I wouldn't have made any conscious note of what was on the outside, no."