“I just want to let you know we did all we could.” – these are the devastated words of one firefighter who was there on the night of the horrific fire at Grenfell Tower in the early hours of Wednesday 13th June.
Ever since the devastating incident, the emergency services and their response has been rightly praised.
The firefighters and first responders to the blaze, which began around 1am, have consistently been applauded for their fast action in getting to the site, and their diligent and unrelenting attempts to put a stop to the inferno.
But although the victims and survivors are first and foremost the main people affected by the tragedy – the firefighters, the ones running into dangers as everyone else, rightly, was running away from it, have emerged as some of the true heroes of that fateful evening.
And one firefighter has bravely shared his own experience of the horrific night.
Hauntingly, he first described his initial thoughts as he arrived at the scene in West Kensington in the blog post. “We could see this was a bad one immediately. The sky was glowing.
“Parts of the building were already starting to fall down on to the surrounding area. As we entered the building the fire on the outside was raging from the top to the bottom.”
Michael continued to detail the utter chaos in the building at the time, as he and the team were given instructions to head to the 23rd floor in a bid to save the lives of people at the very top of the tower block.
“Around the 9th floor we lost all visibility and the heat was rising. Still we continued up and up through the blackness. We reached what we believed to be the 19/20th floor but there was no way to tell.”
The brave firefighter continued, describing the thousands of thoughts and questions running through his head in the high-pressure situation.
“The radios are playing up… have we missed an important message? Have all crews been pulled out? Is the structure still safe?”
He also spoke about the moment he was forced to choose between a
couple on one floor, and five other people on the floor above them, to
“Now I had horrible decisions to make and a very short amount of time to make them in. If we went up another floor would we actually find the 5?
“If we found them what state would they be in? Could the two of us get that many out especially one or more are unconscious? How would we decide who to take?”
Michael went on to detail his and another firefighters attempt at saving the couple – “Taking a casualty each we set off. They are screaming at us that they couldn’t breathe.
“We try to reassure them. “Stay with me! We are going to get you out! Please stay with me!'”
“I hear a shout from behind me from my partner. The female casualty has become unconscious. My partner is now having to drag her down alone – I can’t help.”
He also told of the sacrifice one of his colleagues made, handing his own breathing apparatus to a resident, while he suffered through the smoke instead. He wrote, “He’s got no helmet and no breathing apparatus. ‘Are you ok? Where’s your BA set!?
“He’s given it to a casualty… he’s coughing as he tells us – he’s delirious from the heat and smoke.”
Devastatingly, Michael also told of a women, on the phone to her friend, who was trapped on the 11th floor with her baby. He admits feeling frazzled, not knowing what to say – but reassured her that he will tell the teams up there – “We are coming. Stay on the phone to her!”
Michael also wrote about his bosses reaction to fire, and how he was well aware that they needed to take risks in order to get the job done – such as being on duty for well over 19 hours. “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. This is what we train for”
The piece finished with an impassioned plea for the nation to keep supporting the fire services, with Michael reassuring that they’ll always be there to help…
“Regardless of what they do, regardless of what the job is, regardless how big or small it is. We as first responders are still going to be there, we are still going to go out day after day helping the people whose lives are at the lowest point imaginable. We are going to be there for you!”
“Finally if you can take a few moments out of your day to really consider the sacrifices the men and women of the emergency services are willing to make to protect you.”
He finished by revealing the personal toll the fire has had on him – indicating that he’s not yet ready to speak about the full devastation of that night.
“I’m off to see my family and friends now. I might talk to them about it if I can, but then again I might not. I’m not sure they need to know what’s in my head just yet. Maybe once I’ve made sense of it I will.”