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Grenfell firefighters ‘punished beyond anything ever experienced before’

A borough fire commander told the inquiry into the tragedy that crews trying to rescue residents had ‘gone to their limit’.

Firefighters battling the Grenfell Tower fire and trying to save residents from its grip were “punished beyond anything they had ever experienced before”, a veteran officer said.

Michael Mulholland, borough commander at Hammersmith and Fulham with 28 years’ experience, said it was clear crews had gone to their limit.

Every person on the incident ground on June 14 was united by their “moral obligation” to get as many people out the building as possible, he said.

This desire was still very much evident more than six hours after the fire started, when assistant commissioner Andrew Roe and deputy assistant commissioner Andrew O’Loughlin gave a briefing that was “almost like a rallying cry”.

In a written statement to the public inquiry, he said: “I think at that point we realised the severity of what we were dealing with.

“I could see now that people were just pushing themselves as hard as they could to do more, you could see people struggling, water being consumed, people going to the limits of what they could, and for me in my role it is difficult.”

They looked like they were physically exhausted, that they had gone to the limit. Michael Mulholland

He continued: “I wasn’t under air (wearing an oxygen mask) but as the crews are going up you try to imagine the conditions they are in, but you could see by the state of them coming out they were obviously being punished beyond anything they had ever experienced before.

“They looked like they were physically exhausted, that they had gone to the limit.

“I have been in jobs before over the years where it’s hot but you go in, you come out, you pull your mask up, but here people were literally coming out, sitting down, pulling their mask off and downing water straight away. They looked heat-exhausted and that was without taking into account what they were seeing.

“This was purely the physicality of what they were going through.”

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Some 72 people died as a result of the fire (Natalie Oxford/PA)

On the night of the fire, Mr Mulholland was designated operational review team officer – a team which attends fires of a certain severity, checks policy is being followed and highlights any learning that comes out of the incident.

The-then station manager at Wimbledon said the escape of a Chinese man at around 7-7.30am boosted morale and gave him the feeling they were “doing something right”.

He continued: “Man and woman that night – I think they went over and above anything they had ever done before.

“I think that one thing that unified the whole fire ground was that, although this was not necessarily said, there was a tangible feeling we had a moral obligation to get in and get as many people out of the building as we could.

“While there was saveable life in there it was felt that was what we were doing.”

Some 72 people died as a result of the fire on June 14 last year.

The inquiry is hearing a fifth week of evidence from firefighters, before pausing for August.

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