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'Every single person in that building was willing to lose their life to save others': Grenfell Tower fire chief recounts dramatic rescue efforts in TV documentary

Inside London Fire Brigade will air at 9pm on Thursday July 27

Firefighters who battled the Grenfell Tower inferno have recalled the hellish scenes they encountered in a three part series, as flames devoured the building last month.

Speaking in an ITV documentary titled Inside London Fire Brigade , which is to be broadcast on Thursday (July 27) at 9pm, commanders from the emergency service described how every member of their rescue team was prepared to die that night.

The scale of the crisis escalated rapidly as the blaze whipped up the structure in a matter of minutes, trapping dozens inside.

Pat Goulbourne and Richard Welch were the senior officers at the scene that night and set out the chaos as a rescue operation became entwined with the battle against the blaze.

Mr Welch told Inside London Fire Brigade, to be broadcast at 9pm on Thursday on ITV: "Every single person within that building was willing to lose their own life to try to save others. Every single person."

He had first been alerted to the unfolding disaster early in the morning.

"My pager went off at 1.18am to inform me of a flat fire at Grenfell Tower," Mr Welch said.

Grenfell Tower after a fire engulfed the 24-storey building(Image: PA)

"Initially they had six machines there. Then they asked for eight, and then 10, and then 15, 20 and then 25. I'm hearing that on the way there, so it's becoming really clear that we've got quite a serious incident going on."

He added: "One of the first things I did was actually declare it a major incident because I knew we were going to need a lot of help."

The trepidation was shared by Mr Goulbourne, who had visited the building in the past.

He said: "As I was approaching it, I just knew we had probably the job of our lives on the go because already I could see fire from the lower floors and I couldn't believe I was looking at fire to the top floor.

"I've never seen anything like that, ever. The fire was changing, it was moving rapidly."

Hundreds of people had been inside Grenfell Tower when the fire took hold on June 14, many of whom heeded official fire safety advice to stay put in their flats.

Grenfell tower block after the devastating fire(Image: Daily Mirror)

Others however fled their homes as choking fumes began to envelope the corridors.

Mr Goulbourne continued: "You could hear people screaming for help. There were people making signals for help.

"It was dreadful. There are hundreds of people in there. Men, women, children were coming out fully sooted. Black. They had been through a layer of smoke in complete distress."

The perilous state of the stairwell also further complicated the rescue effort, Mr Welch explained.

He said: "We had our hoses going up the staircase. We had people trying to get out coming down the staircase.

"We've got firefighters going up the staircase and the staircase was filling with smoke. So the priority was really to try to reach the flats we knew had people in. The issue we had was the intensity of the fire.

Grenfell Tower in west London(Image: PA)

"There was the potential for the building to collapse."

Despite the valiance of the emergency response teams, at least 80 people died that night.

Commander for the London Borough Steve Dudeney said: "There were firefighters laying about with haunted looks in their eyes.

"After 30 years in the London Fire Brigade I didn't ever expect to see anything like that. And I pray to God I never will again."

Mr Welch added: "There is a feeling of being extremely proud of what we did and how hard everyone worked.

"But there's also that horrific feeling of...we didn't get everybody. And we tried. Really hard."

Inside London Fire Brigade is a three-part series which will begin with the Grenfell Tower fire on Thursday night (July 27).

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