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Fire chief reveals desperate bid to trigger full evacuation at Grenfell Tower

Daniel Egan spoke of his frustration over a lack of progress during the blaze last June.

A fire chief has described his desperate efforts to get a full evacuation ordered at Grenfell Tower after realising the inferno was unconquerable.

Daniel Egan, a station manager in regulatory fire safety, arrived shortly before 2am on June 14 2017, according to brigade records, tasked with co-ordinating 999 call information.

He told the inquiry into the disaster on Tuesday that his “initial thoughts were that we needed to get people out of that building”, but, hours on, found the lack of progress “very frustrating”.

The hearing at Holborn Bars was interrupted in the early afternoon by a fire alarm, triggering an evacuation of the building.

Families affected by the tragedy were told by chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick to follow ushers out while a tannoy announcement said: “A fire has been reported in the building.”

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A litany of fire safety flaws introduced over more than a decade have been set out at the inquiry (Natalie Oxford/PA)

A fire warden confirmed that it was a false alarm, and everyone was allowed to re-enter at around 1pm.

Mr Egan, who joined the London Fire Brigade (LFB) in January 1992, described in a written statement arriving to hellish scenes on June 14 and hearing a “loud thud” near the tower.

The officer did not perform his usual fire safety officer role that night, instead co-ordinating information from fire survival guidance (FSG) calls between 999 operators and trapped residents.

He wrote: “I was told people were jumping from the tower. I knew they weren’t going to be alive. I just had to ignore it and try to get into the tower to make sure that the information about the people trapped inside was getting through.

“I could hear that people were so scared and crying for help – I couldn’t look. I didn’t (watch) to see anyone fall, although I knew it was going to happen.

“I was thinking ‘just get out’.”

The woman had said that one of her children was dead and the other was dying. She said she just wanted to die. Fire chief Daniel Egan

Mr Egan said he knew the stay-put advice to residents in the block was unsafe because the whole building was “alight”, but added “people can be frightened to step outside policy”.

He told group manager Tom Goodall, the fire survival lead, that he thought the strategy should be ditched, along with station manager Pete Wolfenden, his statement said.

Mr Egan said the same to group manager Richard Welch – then incident commander – and was told: “We are doing it.”

But he was informed by others that they “weren’t flooding the tower with firefighters”.

The stay-put advice was abandoned at 2.47am, nearly two hours after the fire began.

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Grenfell Tower is illuminated in green along with its surrounding towers to mark a year since the moment the devastating fire took hold (Jonathan Brady/PA)

His statement described a heartbreaking phone conversation with a trapped mother whose children were dying.

“Her boyfriend was 10 yards behind me just staring up at the flat,” he said.

“The woman had said that one of her children was dead and the other was dying. She said she just wanted to die.”

The phone went quiet soon after, he was told.

He continued: “By that point I knew that we weren’t going to put the fire out – we needed to put more effort into getting people out, not putting water on the flames.

“My view was we should commit crews to every floor – we needed to flood the building with firefighters. I passed my thoughts up the chain of command.

“It was very frustrating: we weren’t seeing the people coming down from the tower. I felt I was failing but I knew there was nothing else I could do.

“I knew I couldn’t do anything else but I wanted to do more.”

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Scenes of devastation from inside the tower (Grenfell Tower inquiry/PA)

His statement illustrated the apparent delay between information about trapped residents being passed over to fire crews and the rescues taking place.

It said: “At 4.25am, I recorded on the whiteboard that SM Pete Wolfenden said they were committed to the 15th floor. Then Pete came back to me and said that they were only committing to the 11th floor.

“I knew that most people making fire survival calls were above the 11th… I knew that between 1.30am and 4.30am I had been passing on information and we hadn’t got to the people inside. It was a horrible feeling.”

He also reported confusion over which residents were trapped on which floors, including the “priority” case of a disabled man trapped in flat 83 on the 11th floor.

“The safety officer was saying the man was on the eighth floor but I thought he was on the 11th floor… I realised that he was only counting from above the floors covered in glass panelling, missing out the ground and first floors.”

Crews had been deployed to the eighth floor, he later discovered.

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