The horror of filming the Grenfell Tower fire

It usually involves driving to a location and finding a couple of fire engines packing away their hoses. You end up asking bystanders where to find the now extinguished fire. A dirty looking scorch mark may be all you can locate.

:: Towers turn green on Grenfell anniversary

On June 14 2017, I got such a call. I drove to north Kensington still thinking that the editor was maybe exaggerating in his description of a “large fire”.

But still some distance away at Shepherd’s Bush, I caught my first glimpse of it.

I will never ever forget seeing what looked like a massive medieval torch thrust into the ground. Flames licked high up into the night sky.

It was clear straight away that this was something I had never experienced before.

:: In numbers – The Grenfell Tower fire

Hour after hour I stood broadcasting the nightmarish scene in front of me.

Members of the public and emergency services alike would walk past me looking both shocked and haunted.

Firemen in particular would return for fresh oxygen tanks and bits of equipment and their faces would hint at things they had seen.

At one point, teams of police walked past me towards the fire carrying riot shields.

I could not for the life of me think how any kind of rioting could be taking place in such circumstances.

:: Grenfell – The victims

Hindsight offered the explanation that they were using the shields to make a safe tunnel from falling debris into and out of the building for firefighters to travel through.

I could hear that debris falling. I too could hear what I hoped was debris but sickeningly knew was almost certainly people jumping in desperation.

Screams that I thought were from those on the ground may well have been from those forced to flee their high-rise homes.

My job was to get live pictures of the fire out as quickly as possible.

It was an insignificant task compared with the work of the emergency services that night.

The inquiry into the fire recently heard from deputy assistant commissioner Adrian Fenton of the London Fire Brigade, who said after watching the footage on Sky News he made decisions to abandon the “stay put” advice based on what he was seeing.

Perhaps my pictures may have helped save some lives, but if that’s the case, I only wish I could have got those pictures out sooner.


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