A FIREFIGHTER has described the moment he thought the Grenfell Tower fire had been extinguished — and of his horror when he realised the building was still ablaze.
Charles Batterbee, a crew manager at North Kensington fire station, was one of two firefighters tasked with the ‘bread-and-butter job’ of putting out a kitchen fire on the fourth floor.
He crawled into the smoke-clogged room and doused what appeared to be a fridge blaze before radioing his colleagues to say ‘we had done our job’.
However, he did not realise the flames had burned through a window and crept on to the flammable external facade, sweeping up the building in minutes and trapping dozens of people on June 14 last year.
He left the building and reported to the incident commander, thinking the fire was under control.
‘I looked up at the side of the tower and I will never get over that shock,’ he said.
Earlier, Mr Batterbee (pictured) fought back tears and needed a break as footage of his approach to Flat 16 was played.
In a statement, he described the blaze as ‘hell, it was like a war zone. The noise was so loud with the fire, the constantly falling debris and the pumps going’.
He added there were ‘no words to describe how powerless I felt’ when he was on the phone to a trapped resident.
A colleague was found on the floor of the lobby in ‘a semi-unconcious state’ and Mr Batterbee himself was struck by a piece of debris but was saved by the riot shield he was holding.
‘It shouldn’t have happened. It completely spread from being one face alight to eventually all faces alight,’ he said.
‘At one point, it looked like a massive line of fire had gone up and over the top of the building and down the west side.
‘We had gone from a fire in a building to a building on fire.’
The inquiry into the west London blaze continues.