A FIREFIGHTER at the Grenfell Tower blaze has revealed the horror of having to choose who to save during London’s worst fire for decades. They struggled to make their way up the stairwell due to the sheer numbers of people, including colleagues bringing people down, as well as smoke which grew thicker with every floor.
As the pair reached the ninth floor they lost all visibility but kept going and around the 19th or 20th floor they found a couple attempting to get out as they panicked while choking on the toxic air, and saying there were five more people trapped on the floor above. By that point the two firefighters were low on air from their breathing apparatus’ and could not make it to the 23rd floor so had to choose.The firefighter wrote: “Now I had horrible decisions to make and a very short amount of time to make them.
“In what I think would of been less than a minute these are all the things I had going through my head.” He then said they had to think about how much air they had left, whether the people were correct as they were panicking from choking, and heat and whether they could allow them to go downstairs alone.
They also had to assess what state the five trapped people would be in and if the pair could get that many out, especially if they were unconscious which posed the question of how they would decide who to take and if they had enough air for themselves to make it to the bottom.He also had to consider asking his partner to risk more than she already had, as she was a new mother. The firefighter, added: “Can I accept/live with the thought that saving two lives is better than taking the risk to go up and potentially saving no one?“Ahh!! Come on think…! Am I doing enough? Can I give more? Am I forgetting any of my training….? Stop…. Breath…..Think…..”
They also could not reach their command via radio as the signal was broken so eventually made the decision to take a casualty each, who then pushed them both down a flight of stairs as they panicked and could not breath.The woman being carried by his female colleague then fell unconscious so had to be dragged before they met another crew, with one handing him a firefighter’s helmet which had been given to a victim to help them breath. The firefighter then told how his colleague with no helmet had to be given oxygen before the pair took him and victims outside and collapsed on the grass as they gulped down water with their equally exhausted colleagues, with nobody able to talk.He then had to tell a woman whose friend and her baby were trapped on the 11th floor to stay on the phone to her as more crews entered the building.He added: “It throws me… I struggle to reply.. I look across at a police officer I point at him and tell her he will take her to the people who will take her friends information and pass it on to the crews inside.“Some time later I couldn’t say how long we are all grouped together waiting for news. A senior officer is telling us he knows we’ve already broken all the policy’s we have. He knows the risks we’ve taken but thats not enough we are going to have to take more! “There are still a lot more people who need us. “He says he’s going to ask us to do things that would normally be unimaginable. To put our lives at risk even more than we already have.” Despite that, the firefighter and his colleagues jump into action and go in again and 19 hours after their shift started, they have to stop, although none of them wanted to leave, he said.The psychological effects of being a firefighter in Grenfell Tower were already taking hold, with the firefighter saying he was unable to sleep so went to the pub with colleagues. He added: “As we sat with our drinks we don’t really talk. Sitting in almost complete silence, each lost in thought trying to begin to process everything that’s happened. “Yet we are aware of the people all around us laughing and joking with friends, enjoying their drinks in the sun. Oblivious to what we’ve seen, unaware of what we’ve been doing all night.“I’ve no appetite but I know I need to eat. We go to and get some food but it’s hard to concentrate.“We go back to the fire station, there’s no time to get home. I find a bed in the dorm room and eventually manage 45 min sleep before I wake up. “Wash my face, get dressed and I’m ready to report for roll call, ready to do it all again.”