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Fire crews had time to evacuate Grenfell Tower, resident tells inquiry

Manuel Miguel Alves said it was clear from early on that the fire could not be stopped.

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Grenfell Tower fire (Natalie Oxford/PA)

Grenfell Tower fire (Natalie Oxford/PA)

Grenfell Tower fire (Natalie Oxford/PA)

One of the first residents to discover the Grenfell Tower fire has said there would have been enough time for the fire brigade to evacuate the high-rise once the blaze took hold.

Manuel Miguel Alves, who owned his 13th floor flat, said it was clear from early on that the fire could not be stopped and getting residents out of the “trap” was London Fire Brigade’s “only choice”.

Mr Alves and his wife discovered the fire moments after it began when the lift they were in opened to reveal light smoke in the fourth floor lobby.

He went up to his flat to get his children out, later watching in horror as flames spread from the bottom to the top of the tower “within about 15 minutes”.

There was still enough time to evacuate the building and it was clear the fire could not be stopped and that this was the only choiceManuel Miguel Alves

The inquiry heard from several residents on the same floor who were woken by Mr Alves’s knocking and decided to flee the building, contrary to fire brigade advice.

A resident of the 18th floor, Shahid Ahmed, who fled because he had “the instinct to know the building was not safe and was a ticking time bomb,” also told the inquiry he was glad he had not got through to a 999 operator who might have told him to stay put.

Mr Alves said in a written statement to the public inquiry: “Looking at the fire on Grenfell Tower, it seemed clear that the fire brigade should have gone to the top of the tower, knocked on all the doors and got people out.

“There was still enough time to evacuate the building and it was clear the fire could not be stopped and that this was the only choice.

“It was out of control within minutes and I could see the fire hoses could not reach high enough and could not stop it.”

By about 1.30am flames had reached the top of the tower, he said, and police started pushing onlookers back.

He continued: “They started to say that ‘the building could fall down’.

“I remember thinking that if this is what they thought, then they should have entered the building, and moved people out.”

Mr Alves, wearing a green Grenfell heart, told the inquiry he ignored fire safety notices that advised residents to stay inside their flat.

He also rang a friend he played football with, Marcio Gomes, telling him, his pregnant wife and their two daughters to leave the block.

Watching his evidence were his wife, Maria de Fatima Alves, and children Tiago and Ines, as well as London mayor Sadiq Khan.

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Sadiq Khan (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Sadiq Khan (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

PA Wire/PA Images

Sadiq Khan (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Shown a picture of a fire safety notice on the third floor of the tower, Mr Alves said: “I completely ignored this one and the rules they have.

“We should go by the rules but I did the other – the opposite way.”

Asked why, he said: “I think on my mind it was to save myself, because if fire is on the fourth floor, I’m on the 13th floor, why should I be in the trap when I have the opportunity to come out?

“In the event of the fire, if they spread they will go worse. I don’t know why we would wait in the trap, we should come out.

“Every minute it was worse inside the tower at that time.”

A total of 72 people died in the blaze on June 14 last year, with another resident dying in January.

The inquiry is hearing from survivors, relatives and friends of those who died and nearby residents, at Holborn Bars in Central London.

PA