A firefighter who heard children’s screams as he battled the Grenfell Tower blaze has described the fire as “like a warzone”.
Damian Magee and other crew members from Whitechapel Fire Station’s Red Watch were among the first firefighters dispatched in the early hours of Wednesday, as the emergency services were flooded with calls.
Mr Magee told Sky News he could see the blaze miles in the distance before nearing the tower, adding that he was “hoping and praying that it was a construction site, a new-build, that was going up”.
The crew’s progress was hampered by traffic and road blocks, forcing them to abandon their fire engine and run to the tower.
Describing the scene that confronted him, Mr Magee said: “I’ve never seen anything like this…it was like a movie.
“I had no idea how many people had got out by that stage, how many were trapped.
“There was screaming, children screaming, and other residents in the block.”
He added: “Particularly I can remember a kid’s voice that was at a higher pitch screaming for help.
“They probably had some hope that when they saw the fire brigade down there that we would get in and help them.”
Mr Magee and his crew avoided falling debris as they battled their way in to the building, only to find conditions worse inside.
With heavy smoke filling the tower’s corridors, the firefighter realised he didn’t have enough oxygen to make it to the top.
He said: “There’s no lift and 24 or 25 floors to run up with all the gear…you wouldn’t be able to do the air we had.
“It was like a warzone, there was debris falling on cars, smoke everywhere, flaming debris as well.
“We were aware the place was filling up with more and more smoke, we were not supposed to be starting off in smoky environments but there wasn’t a safe zone to go to.”
Mr Magee revealed 999 operators dealt with up to 172 fire survival guidance calls, when a trapped person cannot leave their home and stays on the line.
He said: “We must have had the most horrendous night of dead lives.
“What we didn’t achieve was terrible but I do know that everyone gave their all.”
He added: “Our ladders only go so high, a human can only absorb so much heat before they combust.
“(Firefighters) gave way more than what we are trained to do or should have done.”