Grenfell firefighter's bodycam footage of flat where fire started shown to inquiry

Video shows rescuers extinguish blaze in kitchen — but expert says flames had already spread

Harriet Agerholm
Tuesday 19 June 2018 15:40 BST
Grenfell Inquiry: Firefighter bodycam footage shows how they tackled blaze inside flat where fire started

Footage from thermal body cameras worn by the first firefighters to enter Grenfell Tower after the fire broke out has been shown to the inquiry into the disaster.

Two members of the fire service, referred to during the probe as crew manager Batterbee and firefighter Brown, entered the flat where the fire began by breaking down the door at about 1.07am on 14 June last year.

They arrived at Flat 16, on the fourth floor of the tower, roughly 13 minutes after occupant Behailu Kebede rang 999.

Mr Kebede had been sleeping on a mattress in his living room when he was awoken by his fire alarm and found smoke coming from behind his fridge-freezer in the kitchen

Four fire engines were initially sent to the scene, including two from North Kensington which arrived within four seconds of each other at 12.59am, one from Kensington and another from Hammersmith.

Footage of the operation was played to the inquiry on Tuesday during a presentation by Professor Niamh Nic Daeid, the director of the Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science at the University of Dundee, who was explaining the origins of the fire and its spread.

A split-screen was used to show the bodycam film alongside mobile phone footage from outside the tower.

The expert said the door was closed when the firefighters arrived, and Brown had to break it down to get inside. He later described black smoke billowing out of the flat once the door was open, she said.

Ms Batterbee went in first with a hose and they searched each of the bedrooms, where there were no signs of a fire, before progressing down the hallway, she said.

They reached the kitchen at around 1.14am. Providing commentary to the film, Prof Nic Daeid said: “The yellow glow that you see is the fire that is down the window end of the kitchen.

“The firefighters attempt to put water on the fire and you can see where the hose reel is spraying water on the fire.

“They close the door – and then they open the door again to see the fire is still present.

“At this point the firefighters are discussing what tactics they can use to tackle the fire that is within the kitchen.”

At approximately 1.20am, the expert said, “the firefighters go right into the kitchen and they extinguish the fire that was in and around the fridge freezer, directly at that point”.

But by this time, footage taken from outside the tower showed the flames had spread to several floors.

Embers could be seen falling from the tower’s external facade at 1.08am, the expert said, and the blaze had started spreading from the kitchen window at 1.09am. The inferno would go on to kill 72 people.

The last clip of footage presented to the inquiry shows the kitchen after the fire had been extinguished.

Debris from the fire is seen on the floor and “aspects of the cladding coming down out of the window” are visible, she added.

The fridge-freezer had been “exposed to fire damage from the bottom to the top”, Professor Nic Daied said, adding the damage seemed focused more towards the “rear than the front”.

A scorched area of the laminate flooring where the appliance stood was also shown, marked in contrast to the largely unburnt area around it.

Prof Nic Daeid said it was possible to say that the fire had started in the south-east corner of the kitchen, in or around the fridge-freezer.

But further tests were required to determine the precise cause, she added.

“At this time, no in-depth analysis of the electrical system or combustibility analysis of the tall fridge freezer and its components have been undertaken and reported by any fire investigator involved in the investigation of the origin and the cause of the fire,” she told the hearing.

“As a consequence, it is my opinion that the cause of the fire remains undetermined until further analysis of the tall fridge freezer and other electrical components recovered from the south-east corner of the kitchen of Flat 16 can be undertaken.”

The fire expert said the thermal imaging footage was “valuable” when trying to determine how the fire spread.

Prof Nic Daeid is one of three giving evidence to the inquiry this week and will be followed by Professor Luke Bisby from 10am on Wednesday.

Press Association contributed to this report

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