A FIRE officer begged his superiors to abandon ‘stay-put’ advice given to Grenfell Tower residents within minutes of arriving at the burning block, an inquiry has heard.
Watch manager Norman Harrison, who was called to the scene at 1.15am on June 14 last year, said he quickly realised something was badly wrong.
London Fire Brigade had told residents to remain in their flats in line with fire policy for high-rise buildings.
But the speed and ferocity of the fire’s spread meant many occupants became trapped on upper floors. The stay-put advice was finally ditched at 2.47am, a delay that has been heavily criticised.
Mr Harrison told the inquiry that he tried to get the strategy stopped much earlier. He concluded it was redundant by around 1.50am, adding: ‘I was truly shocked at such a severe fire over so many floors. Immediately I knew the stay-put policy should no longer apply.’
He described how the intensity of the blaze reminded him of the ‘surface of the sun’. In his statement he said he was ‘extremely concerned’ both for residents trapped inside the building and his fellow firefighters.
The Wembley fire officer, who has 25 years’ experience, continued: ‘I knew that our telephone operators at Merton HQ would be telling people to stay put. In reality I didn’t think that there would be an opportunity to rescue people on the upper floors and I strongly felt that the advice needed to be changed to almost a simultaneous decision to evacuate.’
He then rushed over to the incident command vehicle, where he announced to senior managers ‘that I believed the advice our operators was giving out to the people trapped needed to be changed’.
Yesterday he told the inquiry he had received ‘no response from them at all’ when he raised his concerns. Asked in what tone he had addressed the group, he replied: ‘Very direct and unequivocal.’
Choking back tears, Mr Harrison told families bereaved by the fire: ‘I hope you get the justice you deserve.’ The inquiry at Holborn Bars continues.