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  1. ITV Report

Firefighters hardwired to save life where there is chance, Grenfell inquiry told

The Grenfell Tower inquiry is hearing closing statements from lawyers representing the survivors, the bereaved and organisations involved with the response to the fire.

Stephen Walsh QC, representing the London Fire Brigade was the first to speak.

Officers who gave evidence at the inquiry's first phase found it "extremely challenging, and in many cases particularly harrowing" to re-live their role, he said.

He said it was a "stark fact" that one of the biggest fire services in the world had been "severely challenged, in some elements overwhelmed" by what happened on the night of June 14 last year.

Meaningful lessons must be learned by many, including the brigade, and fundamental changes made wherever possible to ensure a disaster of this kind never happens again.

– Stephen Walsh QC, representing London Fire Brigade

Addressing chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick, Mr Walsh said:

Sir, you may recall firefighters using the phrase 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' effectively to sum up some of the situations they found themselves in.

But they acted in many instances with heroism, paying scant regard for their own safety and returning into the building, sometimes time and time again, on the instruction of commanders who themselves struggled profoundly with the knowledge that they were deploying colleagues into perilous surroundings. They did not give up because they are hardwired to save life where there is still a chance.

– Stephen Walsh QC, representing London Fire Brigade

Mr Walsh said there were issues the inquiry's expert witnesses did not agree on and that these needed further examination in the second phase of the inquiry.

This is not expected to get under way until April or May 2019, and will look at the wider issues surrounding the fire.

In these circumstances, it would, in our submission, be unfair to pass judgment on individual actions of any of the firefighters or control staff until more of these issues are fully examined in phase two.

– Stephen Walsh QC, representing London Fire Brigade

Critical findings of the chairman, he argued, with the exception of any urgent recommendations he may see fit to suggest, "can only properly be made when the full context is examined in phase two".

Sir Martin is due to produce an interim report after the first phase, which is drawing to a close, has finished.