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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

Closing statements


Day 85: victims' lawyers attack the fire brigade


Further expert evidence

Including some additional evidence from emergency call handlers, bereaved and relatives


Day 84: further evidence from survivors and relatives

Day 83: swift evacuation of tower possible if residents alerted

Day 82: initial fire was extinguished but then returned to the flat

Day 81: overheating fridge-freezer most likely cause of fire

Day 80: fire doors installed did not match product tested

Day 79: resident advised to stay put despite fire in flat

Day 78: insulation and cladding material below required standard

Day 77: molten plastic spread blaze down tower

Day 76: 'stay put' should be dropped when fire spreads across floors


Other witness evidence

Police, ambulance, gas suppliers, council, TMO and call room operators give evidence


Day 75: call room operators give evidence

Day 74: further evidence from TMO officers

Day 73: TMO boss failed to pass information to firefighters

Day 72: fire finally extinguished when gas switched off

Day 71: further questions over stay put advice

Day 70: the police evidence


The bereaved, survivors and relatives’ evidence


Day 69: video shows smoke billowing through fire door

Day 68: KCTMO removed self closing mechanism and never replaced it

Day 67: gaps in cladding fixed with duct tape

Day 66: 'don't fix broken system with a sticking plaster'

Day 65: survivor dragged disabled man down nine floors to safety

Day 64: KCTMO 'did not replace broken fire door'

Day 63: foam insulation inside cladding 'exposed' says survivor

Day 62: father gives harrowing account of son's death

Day 61: council’s management organisation slammed for faulty electrics

Day 60: stay put advice ‘led to deaths’, residents say

Day 59: residents describe problems with new windows

Day 58: survivor describes how daughter saved his life

Day 57: firefighter evidence ‘a slap in the face’, says survivor

Day 56: relations with contractor were ‘toxic’

Day 55: resident 'never happy' with stay-put advice

Day 54: tenant gives evidence about housing association

Day 53: stay put advice 'felt like trap'

Day 52: resident saved by son's phone call


The firefighters’ evidence


Day 51: firefighter feared encouraging residents to jump

Day 50: the LFB commissioner

Day 49: fire chief reveals frustration over lack of building plans

Day 48: internal fire spread 'bigger story' than cladding

Day 47: fire officer considered evacuating crews over building collapse fears

Day 46: 'we were improvising' senior firefighter admits

Day 45: firefighter urged for abandonment of 'stay put' policy

Day 44: firefighter recalls radio signal difficulties

Day 43: call hander 'uncomfortable' with insisting residents stay put

Day 42: residents only told to leave if they called fire brigade back

Day 41: breathing equipment delay 'hampered rescues on upper floors'

Day 40: chiefs told firefighters to abandon policy

Day 39: firefighters reveal dramatic rescue of children

Day 38: firefighters issue aplogies to families

Day 37: council 'unable to provide tower plans'

Day 36: QC defends inquiry process

Day 35: Javid would welcome interim recommendations

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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