The London Fire Brigade (LFB) chief has relived the horror of the Grenfell Tower fire and how she was faced with the impossible job of sending firefighters into a situation where not all of them might make it out alive.
In a written statement, LFB Commissioner Dany Cotton told the public inquiry into last year’s fire, which claimed the lives of 72 people, that she was hit by an “overwhelming” anxiety as fire crews went into the burning building.
Ms Cotton said: “The imperative was to save human life. The right to life is a basic function of human rights and we were servicing that human right.
“However, for the first time ever, I had an overwhelming continuous feeling of anxiety, of responsibility in committing firefighters into a building where I could not guarantee their safety.”
She offered words of comfort and physically touched some firefighters before they entered the inferno to give them a final positive memory. The fire chief added: “People will quite rightly have questions, but for me I could not be more proud of the absolute commitment and dedication of the firefighters.”
It is impossible for ordinary men and women to imagine what it must have been like on that dreadful night and Ms Cotton’s searing honesty is a sober reminder of the danger fire crews can face every time they go to work and the courage and dedication they continually display in doing so.
It’s a reminder, too, that we owe all the emergency services – fire, ambulance and police – our heartfelt thanks and a debt of gratitude that we can never truly repay.