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London fire chief says Grenfell 'will never leave me' as she announces retirement

London Fire Brigade Commissioner Dany Cotton has announced her retirement Photo: PA

London's first female fire commissioner Dany Cotton will retire next year, citing the utter devastation of Grenfell Tower fire which she said "will never leave me".

The fire chief likened the sight of the flames ripping through the tower block in June 2017 to a "disaster movie" when she first saw it ablaze, and later said giving evidence at the public inquiry into the tragedy was the "most difficult thing" she had done in her career.

Ms Cotton was criticised by survivors after telling the probe she would change nothing about her team's response on the night of the fire. She revealed she had been plagued with traumatic memory loss and received counselling since the tragedy on June 14 2017, which caused 72 deaths.

The Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017 caused 72 deaths Credit: PA

The Commissioner will retire in April 2020 after 32 years of service in the capital.

She said: "I have worked with the best people in the world on some of the most exciting projects, and also some of the most painful incidents to have occurred in London Fire Brigade's history.

"The utter devastation of the Grenfell Tower fire and its impact on so many people will never leave me.

"I want to reassure my staff and all those affected by the tragedy that I will remain dedicated to leading London Fire Brigade through any findings from phase one of the public inquiry and into phase two which is expected to begin next January."

Prime Minister Theresa May spoke with London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton when she visited the scene near Grenfell Tower in 2017 Credit: PA
London London Fire Brigade Commissioner Dany Cotton (centre) with LFB staff observing a minute's silence after the Grenfell fire Credit: PA

At the inquiry, Ms Cotton admitted she had not spent much time thinking about the tragedy while head of the LFB as "it would be no good for me to fall apart".

She also said the fire would have been deemed an "unrealistic scenario" and preparing for it would have been like preparing for a "space shuttle to land in front of the Shard".

Former resident Natasha Elcock, from survivors' group Grenfell United, said her comments were heartbreaking and disrespectful to those who lost their lives.

Responding to Thursday's announcement, London mayor Sadiq Khan called Ms Cotton a "truly exceptional firefighter".

London Mayor Sadiq Khan with London Fire Brigade Commissioner Dany Cotton (centre) in 2016 Credit: PA

I'm sure all Londoners would like to join me in thanking her for doing everything she can to keep our city safe.

She is a true role model who has broken down barriers for women in London and inspired people who wouldn't otherwise have considered being firefighters to join the Fire Brigade.

I wish her the very best in retirement when she leaves the Brigade next year.

– Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London