Tuesday 16 January 2018

'A little boy told me his brother was dead' - Irish firefighter was among first on scene at Grenfell Tower

Firefighter Damian Magee, who battled the fire at Grenfell Tower
Firefighter Damian Magee, who battled the fire at Grenfell Tower
Conor Feehan

Conor Feehan

A Dublin-born firefighter who was one of the first emergency crew members on the scene at the horrific Grenfell Tower fire in London has told how helpless he felt as he watched families die in the inferno.

Damian Magee is a crew chief at Whitechapel Fire Station in the City of London and was on shift when the first 999 calls registered.

In the fire service for 20 years, he said it was the worst blaze he had ever seen.

Over the weekend he recounted the devastation that he and his colleagues faced.

"I've been in a few horrendous jobs but this was by far the worst. All of us in there gave our all and went above and beyond what we should have, but could not reach so, so many," he said.

"Some were saved but so many more were not - our ladders don't go that high, our water doesn't reach that far, humans can't push through inferno temperatures into the thousands, although many tried," he wrote on Facebook.

Burnt-out lifts and apartments at Grenfell Tower. Photo: Metropolitan Police/PA
Burnt-out lifts and apartments at Grenfell Tower. Photo: Metropolitan Police/PA

"We can't breathe smoke, although we did all night, but we still watched families die. All of our thoughts are with those we couldn't reach in time, as well as those that we did."

In an interview with Sky News two days after the horrific fire, Mr Magee told of an eerie talk he had with a boy of around five years old who was fleeing the tower block with his mother.

"She was in a bad way. He seemed okay, he was very calm, and we asked him - 'We need to know what flat were you in? Is there anyone else in that flat?' And he turned around and looked at me and said, 'My brother - but he's dead'.

"It breaks your heart. You feel useless and helpless," he said.

Mr Magee said the scene inside the burning tower block was like nothing he had ever seen. "We heard the children screaming. I can remember one kid's voice that was sticking out, higher-pitched than all the other voices, crying out, screaming for help.

"They probably had some sort of hope when they saw us firefighters down there, like you would do, for us to get in and help them," he added.

"I had no idea how many got out, or how many were trapped."

Speaking of the fire crews, he said everybody gave their all on the day.

Members of the emergency services work inside the burnt-out remains of the Grenfell Tower block. Photo: Reuters
Members of the emergency services work inside the burnt-out remains of the Grenfell Tower block. Photo: Reuters

"When they were coming down the stairs they were nearly on fire, they were completely exhausted. The temperatures were killing them. That building was engulfed in flame, and we were all inside that building.

"The crews that were ahead of me were upstairs going into floors without water, simply looking around and trying to do their best, kicking in doors and trying to get people out," he said.

Mr Magee said that as the fire crews first neared the site they could see the massive plume of smoke in the distance, and they hoped it was a vacant building site that was on fire.

"We were hoping and praying it was a building site, a new-build that was going up, because we couldn't believe what we were seeing and we were miles and miles away," he said. "Everybody in the truck was in shock."

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editors Choice

Also in World News