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Many Firefighters have now given evidence at the Inquiry, but the media aren't so interested now. I just wanted to share this post from a Facebook Group to try and share the horrors of the night and the amazing quick thinking of the crews. This is the story of a guy with 9 months in!!


Grenfell Inquiry Chairman praises London firefighter.

Grenfell Inquiry- 19th July.

(A break in the norm of giving feedback on the Grenfell Inquiry, but as you will see some things just stand out.)

PROBATIONER FIREFIGHTER Harry Bettinson (HB). (Paddington R/W)

HB undertook his ‘Babcock’ recruit firefighter training in February 2016. During his 11 weeks basic training he received one document on high rise fire procedure, practised bridgehead procedures, but had no practical high-rise training and no input on the dangers of flammable cladding in high-rise buildings. Asked if he was aware of the problems metabolic heat stress, the signs and symptoms, he confirmed he was and sighted the benefits of his real fire training. At the time of the Grenfell Tower fire HB was in his 9th month of service.

A crew member on Paddington’s pump he was one of five ordered to the ‘make-pumps 6’ at Grenfell Tower (01.15). In his testimony to the Inquiry HB considered he was attending a ‘normal’ high rise fire, when wearing BA he and his crew mates reported to the 2nd floor bridgehead. They were directed from there to the 6th floor where they found the smoke was worsening and shapes lost their definition. They were evacuating the sixth floor flats and came across a family of five. The crew manager and two firefighters provided assistance as the family ‘self-rescued’ to the lower floors. Firefighters Bettinson and Tillotson (also from Paddington) ran to the 10th floor knocking on ALL the doors to the flats on 7th, 8th and 9th. When they reached the 10th there was fire, a noticeable rise in both the heat and smoke levels. Without BA ‘comms’ they were unable to contact the bridgehead so returned to the 9th preparing to set into the dry riser. Smoke suddenly and completely filled the lobby.

Intending to get the dry riser to work and a hose line back up to the 10th when FF WOLFINDEN and CM GALLAGHER found a family in Flat 65, a mother and her daughter. It was thought that after taking the family from the 6th floor down the pair must have returned back up, following mine and CM TILLOTSON's footsteps. “We now had 2 jobs, we had a family to get out and a fire to fight on the 10th floor.” Flat 65 was over to the right hand corner as you entered the floor from the stairwell.

HB and CM TILLIOTSON were at the dry riser and FF WOLF1NDEN was at the flat door talking to the family. Then, in the space of ten to fifteen seconds, thick black smoke had filled the lobby area. They all entered the flat with the mother and daughter to work out what to do. Rapidly getting hotter and the smoke conditions were worsening they couldn't fight the fire as the priority was getting the family out. They would tell other crews to fight the fire on the 10th floor and continue with the checking of all flats from the 10th floor up.

There was no way to get the mother and daughter out without air. The heat and smoke was too much for them. The flat wasn't effected by the smoke or fire yet so was safe for now. However they could see the fire and bits falling past the windows. It was decided that CM TlLLOTSON, CM GALAGHER and a firefighter from Brixton called Ben (who was standing by at Paddington) would go down to get spare BA sets. Ben was very low on air. His alarm was already going off.

HB and FF WOLFINDEN stayed with the mother and daughter. HB secured the front door with a duvet and other items to prevent the smoke seeping into the flat. Knowing they had to conserve air, and it's really difficult to speak through their BA masks, they turned off their sets and removed the masks. HB stated, “ This is not the done thing, it's against our proper procedure, you are not meant to come off air until you get back down to the bridgehead, but normally you wouldn't be staying in the building like this.”

FF WOLFINDEN concentrated on speaking to the mother and daughter to keep them calm. Thet could see debris and hot flames falling down past the windows. It was like fireballs and flaming arrows coming down.

The mother and daughter stayed calm the whole time. Not once did they panic, they just sat listening, and talking, to FF WOLFINDEN who was reassuring them. The girl was about 4 or 5 years old and not once did she make a fuss. HB had shut the windows as smoke was starting to come in. At this point he was still unaware how big and serious the fire was but realised they were running out of time. HB went out into the corridor a couple of times to monitor the situation and see if the others were coming yet. The whole of the corridor was compromised, totally full of thick black hot smoke. He looked through the letter box of the next door flat and saw that they whole thing looked to be on fire.

HB was calling on the radio to his ‘govnor’ WM COLLINS. “We were thinking whether they could get the Turntable ladder (TL) up to us to get us out.” But 'WM COLLINS said there was no chance it could get anywhere near us. It was impossible due to the amount and size of debris coming down. The four waited in the flat for about fifteen to twenty minutes. At one point there was banging on the front door. HB opened it, much to the surprise of another BA crew, who were clearly going flat to flat to get people to leave. They asked HB what they were doing. Why we were in the flat with no masks on? Told of a family inside and waiting for their crew to return with spare BA sets to get the family out they continued their search and rescue role. HB shut the door and resealed it. The mother and daughter remained calm throughout.

Eventually CM GALLAGHER and CM TILLOTSON returned. As they entered the flat, and took their masks off. A short discussion followed as to how they were going to get everyone out safely. They had brought up 2 new BA sets but some were very low on air. Putting one of the new sets on the mum, a spare mask was hooked so the little girl could breathe HB’s air. Still she didn't fuss, even when the mask was put over her face. CM TILLOTSON was now virtually out of air. He attached his mask to the spare set and carried it. They had to go and quickly. HB picked up the little girl and held her in his arms against my chest. They needed to get down as fast as possible as we were low on air and the whole place was being consumed by the smoke.

With CM GALLAGHER leading, and clearing obstacles out of the way, HB followed carrying the little girl. The woman was behind him with FF WOFINDEN behind her assisting her down and CM TILLOTSON at the back carrying the spare BA. As soon as they left the flat they couldn't see a thing. In the stairwell the smoke was so thick and dense that BA torches were only giving 6 inches of visibility. There was no other lighting. It was black smoke and they had 9 floors to get down.

On the stairwell traffic had increased. There was EDBA crews going up. Passing them, due to the size of their kits was a real struggle. Protecting the woman in case she was barged into HB was having to be as careful carrying the child although she never once made a fuss. The stairwell felt even narrower than it had before. There were bits of hose and other things on the stairwell,

CM GALLAGHER was guiding HB down and cleared the way, kicking at things to clear them out the way as we focussed on getting down as quick as possible. It was getting hotter the further down they got. The heat was taking over everywhere. The heat was now uncomfortable through their protective clothing. When they reached the third floor visibility was better. The bridgehead had moved to the 1st staircase in the lobby area. The WM (Station Officer) on the bridgehead took the little girl. HB removed her facemask and left her with the WM. The mother went with her, both conscious, breathing and seemed OK.

HB and the crew had gone to the tower when it was an 8 pump fire. It was a 25 when they entered under air. On coming out it was a 40 pump fire. In his evidence HB said, “This was unreal, it's nothing you could ever expect. As a crew of four (me, CM TILLIOTSON, CM GALLAGHER and FF WOLFINDEN) we collected our Tallies and we left the tower out through the main entrance. All of our ADSU alarms had been going mad, none of us had air left. We needed to go and get our masks and kits cleaned off, get new air cylinders and complete an A-Test with the BA sets so that we were ready to go again.”

The Inquiry Chairman, Sir Martin Moore-Bick, praised Probationary Firefighter Harry Bettison after giving his evidence saying, “You paid a very important part in the Grenfell incident. Well done"

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Saw that, it got some attention from a few news outlets on Friday.  The Con Op with a similar time in who testified on the same day was equally impressive and her testimony extremely powerful and moving.

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  • 4 months later...

Pretty brutal listening to the BSR lawyers closing statements yesterday to those who listened in. Definitely lessons to be learnt and things that could have been done differently I'm sure but that's the power of hindsight. Couldn't help but feel that LFB were portrayed as the biggest cause of the deaths in those statements, when clearly it was the fact that the building was wrapped in the equivalent to lighter fluid. 

Wonder what the commissioner is thinking. I for one, as someone who is on Monday starting training with LFB, hope she doesn't step down as a result of the backlash. 

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