The first 999 call made to the emergency services reporting the devastating Grenfell Tower fire has been played to the public inquiry.
Five reports into the deadly blaze which tore through the tower block on June 14 2017 were released to the public at 10.15am as part of a massive public inquiry.
At roughly 12.55am on that fateful day Behailu Kebede was awoken by the fire alarm in his flat, number 16, on level four and saw a blaze had broken out around his fridge freezer.
The Ethiopian-born taxi driver desperately called 999 and begged firefighters to hurry.
He said: "Hello, hi, there’s a fire flat 16 Grenfell Tower."
The call handler responds: "A fire where?"
"Flat 16 Grenfell Tower. In the fridge. Come quick please."
The call handler explains a fire engine is on the way and Behailu responds: "Quick, quick, quick, it’s burning."
After warning neighbours he eventually fled the high-rise tower block and watched in horror as the flames took hold of the entire building.
The fire spread quickly inside the flat and then the cladding outside. 72 people were killed.
The inquiry heard today it took more than an hour for the full evacuation order to be made with residents initially told to ‘stay put’ – doomed advice that did not take into account the combustibility of cladding which had been installed in 2016.
Behailu was later quizzed by police and was said to be devastated by the fire.
One pal told the Mirror in June last year: “He is haunted by what happened. He’s just thankful he managed to alert his neighbours."
Neighbour Maryam Adam told how Behailu banged on her front door.
The 41-year-old, who was pregnant and has now given birth, said: “He said there was a fire in his flat.
“It was exactly 12.50am because I was sleeping and it woke me up. If he had not knocked we would be dead.
“The fire was small in the kitchen. I could see it because the flat door was open.
“He said, ‘You must go, there is a fire in my flat. There is a fire in my flat, please go out’.
“There was no alarm. We ran out and saw that the fire was already spreading.”
Experts said the fire started in the kitchen of flat 16 on level four in the area near the window.
However has heard there is insufficient evidence to confirm that a Hotpoint fridge-freezer within the kitchen was the origin and cause.
Several elements of fire safety at the west London tower block have been slammed by experts – with the ‘stay put’ order given to residents branded a ‘total failure’ and the cladding contributing to the "most rapid of the external fire spread".
Professor Barbara Lane, Leader of Fire Safety Engineering at Arup said the cladding installed on the tower “did not comply with the recommended fire performance set out in the statutory guidance for a building of that height”.
The damning reports have revealed what went so wrong at Grenfell last summer:
- The first call to the fire service was at 12.54am on June 14 with the first sign of flames on the outside from 1.14am.
- ‘Stay put’ advice to residents in the case of fires had ‘effectively failed’ at 1.26am barely half an hour after the fire started and was abandoned at 2.47am
- The stairs became smoke-logged by 1.40am and there was evidence of multiple lobbies containing thick black smoke by 1.20am.
It would have been better for residents to attempt to leave via the stairs rather than staying inside
Total evacuation should have happened within 46 minutes of the first 999 call and one expert says there was a "total failure of the ‘stay put’ policy"
The combustible cladding on the outside of the building effectively made the ‘stay put’ advice inadequate
Key players involved in the 2016 refurbishment had not ascertained how the new cladding system would behave in a fire
Firefighters may have contributed to the spread of fire and smoke into the stairwell by leaving doors ajar as they fought the blaze
- Poorly performing fire doors "contributed significantly to the spread of smoke and fire to the lobbies"
- A "culture of non-compliance" was apparent due to the number of fire safety measures which were inadequate
- The cladding meant the fire spread up seven storeys within seven minutes – with 70 flats ablaze in under two hours
- By the time London Fire Brigade said Grenfell residents should no longer stay put, 187 people had already left the tower
In 2011, the Tenant Management Organisation – which ran the building – replaced 106 flat entrance fire doors. None of the doors on any of the 120 flats – including the 14 not replaced – were compliant with the fire test evidence relied upon at the time of installation, Dr Lane found.
During the fire it "would have materially affected the ability or willingness of occupants to escape independently through this space to the stair".
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