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Grenfell Inquiry day 13: fire fighters recall radio difficulties

Day 13 saw evidence from firefighters Daniel Brown and David Badillo, who were among the first firefighers to arrive at the blaze 

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Key points

  • Daniel Brown describes the “weird” conditions he faced in flat 16, where the fire broke out
  • Firefighters inside the tower were unable to contact commanders on the ground because of radio traffic, according to David Badillo. He went on to described London Fire Brigade’s communications equipment as “from the dark ages”.
  • Mr Badillo tells the harrowing story of his failed attempt to rescue a 12-year-old girl stranded at the top of the tower


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Grenfell firefighter describes radio problems when fighting fire Grenfell firefighter describes radio problems when fighting fire

 

Day 13 began with evidence from firefighter Daniel Brown of North Kensington fire station, who was one of two officers fighting the fire in flat 16 of Grenfell Tower. He described the “weird” conditions within the flat, unlike anything he had faced in his 27 years as a firefighter, where there was clearly a blaze but he could feel no heat.

He recalled how once he had put out the initial fire around the fridge visibility increased, he saw a “candlelight flame” flickering outside the flat and leaning outside the window to investigate.

He realised the fire had caught hold of the cladding outside and tried to put it out while hanging out of the window, held by colleague Chris Batterbee, but “it was having no effect. The water is just bouncing off.”

“I couldn’t foresee it was going to travel all the way up to the top of the building. I don’t think anyone could foresee that. You’d like to think that there was some sort of fire breaks system where it would reach to a point and stop,” he added.

Next to give evidence was David Badillo, also of North Kensington fire station. He described how he couldn’t contact commanders on the ground from within the tower using radio equipment. He went on to describe the equipment as “useless” and “from the dark ages”. Read the full story here.

Richard Millet QC then questioned Mr Badillo on his witness statement, which gave a detailed account of his efforts to save the life of a 12-year-old girl whose older sister had told him was stranded at the top of the tower.

In the statement, Mr Badillo described how he had cried “every day” in the month after learning of Jessica Urbano Ramirez’s death.

Her “panicked and anxious” sister had given him keys to their flat on floor 20, which Mr Badillo eventually reached with two other firefighters. But by the time they entered the smoke-logged flat, she had fled to the 23rd floor.

He said: “We were shouting out and searching by stamping and sweeping to feel our way round, using our torches. We were sure we had completed a thorough search and that no-one was inside the flat.”

During the inquiry, Mr Badillo told how he had broken procedure trying to save the girl’s life, as he thought the fire was still only at the sixth floor. “I just wanted to go up and get her. It’s a little 12 year old girl on her own,” he said.

Fighting back tears at the end of a long day of questioning, a clearly distressed Mr Badillo said: “Can I just say to the family of the people in flat 175, I was looking for another girl and I didn’t know there was anyone in there.”

In his statement, he wrote: “It has deeply affected me and it is never far from my thoughts.”

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry

The firefighters' evidence

 

Day 34: water from hose 'too weak' to reach the flames

Day 33: 'oh my god, we've been telling people to stay put'

Day 32: further fire fighter describes lack of equipment and low water pressure

Day 31: 'incredibly difficult' task of recording information outlined

Day 30: struggle to maintain control over rescue operation described

Day 29: fire service 'overwhelmed' by survival guidance calls

Day 28: 'the building beat us'

Day 27: firefighters 'forced to abandon plans to reach roof'

Day 26: poor signage hindered rescue efforts

Day 25: water pressure left firefighting equipment 'like garden hose'

Day 24: decision to abandon 'stay put' explored

Day 23: TV images 'could have assissted' rescue effort

Day 22: description of hectic scenes in the control centre

Day 21: account from the fire service 'nerve centre'

Day 20: firefighter describes 'huge volume' of calls from trapped residents

Day 19: firefighter 'given no training on cladding fires'

Day 18: evacuation would have been 'huge catastrophe'

Day 17: firefighters describe access and lift issues

Day 16: scenes of carnage likened to 9/11

Day 15: firefighters recount trauma of survival guidance calls

Day 14: firefighters describe spread of blaze

Day 13: firefighters recall radio difficulties

Day 12: "it was like a war zone"

Day 11: questions raised over fire fighters' radios

Day 10: watch manager emotional under questioning

Day nine: lead firefighter 'not trained in stay put policy'

 

The expert reports: authors give evidence to inquiry

 

Day eight: where the fire started

Day seven: what was in the cladding?

Day six: the cause and spread of the fire

Day five: expert highlights key issues

Day four: firefighters defend response to fire

Day three: council and contractors appear for the first time

Day two: lawyers for the survivors make their case

Day one: expert evidence released on cladding and stay put

 

The commemoration hearings

 

30 May: Grenfell Council 'recognised it should not house disabled victim above four storeys'

29 May: Anger on day six of the Grenfell Inquiry

25 May: Grenfell families 'forced to live in chimney with stay put policy'

24 May: Grenfell family complained about father being housed on 17th floor

23 May: Tributes to children on third day of Grenfell hearings

22 May: Emotions run high as Grenfell bereaved shown footage of the tower burning

21 May: Grenfell victims share tributes as inquiry opens

 

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