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Grenfell TV coverage ‘influenced stay-put policy change’

London Fire Brigade’s deputy assistant commissioner said the pictorial view of the fire influenced his actions.

Television footage showing the side of Grenfell Tower engulfed by flames was the “influencing factor” that led to changing the stay-put policy, a senior officer said.

Adrian Fenton said he went “straight upstairs” to discuss changing the advice with senior operations manager Joanne Smith after seeing the side of the tower “fully engulfed in fire” on TV.

The deputy assistant commissioner caught his first glimpse of the harrowing scene on the news when he left the control room to go downstairs to the brigade co-ordination centre (BCC).

The television upstairs had been deliberately left off so as not to further distress call room operators, the inquiry previously heard.

Counsel to the inquiry Richard Millett QC asked: “Was seeing what you saw on the TV the influencing factor that led you to go seek her advice?

“For me as an operational officer, that pictorial view yes,” he replied.

Mr Millett said: “So without seeing the television view of the tower on fire, would you have gone back to Jo Smith and said ‘I think we need to change the advice and what’s your advice about the stay-put advice’?

“I don’t know, I can’t answer that question,” Mr Fenton replied.

He Millett went on: “I’ll ask you the same question in a different way: Is seeing what you saw on the television something that made all the difference?”

“For me to have that pictorial view yes.”

Ms Smith previously told the inquiry a conscious decision was made not to “openly broadcast” the footage so as to “remain objective to the job in hand”.

However, Jason Oliff, who was relaying information from the emergency calls to the incident ground, said he believed television coverage was an “invaluable tool in decision making” and would have helped senior management make their decision.

He was told the television was broken, he said in evidence on Monday.

Seventy-two people died as a result of the fire on June 14 last year.

The first phase of the inquiry into the disaster is being held at Holborn Bars in central London.

Mr Fenton was intending to set up a brigade co-ordination centre, which is put in place during a major incident to ensure the brigade continues to run smoothly across London.

However, upon arrival at the control room he decided to re-prioritise his role as he could see he was needed to help organise the recording of information from emergency calls.

Asked if he was surprised to learn there were more than 115 emergency fire survival guidance calls by 2am, he said: “Yes, that’s a hell of a lot, yes.”

Mr Millett asked: “Why, given that you were interested to know what the building looked like from the outside, why weren’t you interested to pursue detailed information from the incident ground as to what was happening on the inside?

He replied: “As I said at the time I can only say we were task-orientated with what was happening and that wasn’t something that crossed my mind at that time.”

Mr Millett continued: “Did it occur to you at any time to think to yourself, ‘I need to know what’s going on on the ground so that I can tell the staff in the control room to tell the callers what’s happening’?”

“So, yes, I was after a visual picture of what was happening on the incident ground, so that’s why I went down to look at the monitor screen in the BCC to get that visual overview of what was happening on the incident ground,” he answered.

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