Firefighter Challenges Caller Over Accusations Of Racism In Grenfell Response

21 October 2019, 14:54

A London firefighter of 37 years argues with this caller who supports Baroness Lawrence's accusations that the response to the Grenfell Tower fire was racist.

The caller Ray said he'd served in every station in West London that will have responded on the night.

Ray said he was "disgusted" at Baroness Lawrence's comments and said "Throughout my career and hereon, I can say hand on heart that there is not one individual that have seen race, sex, colour, creed before the professionalism of their job."

He called the accusation "abysmal" and says he wants to know the context under which it was made.

Juan, a caller on another line, agreed with the Baroness's comments. He said: "Race played a huge part in the responsiveness and the effectiveness of both London Fire Brigade and the council."

Nick differentiated between the council and the fire brigade: "To me, Juan, a firefighter does not see why but you think they might."

Juan said that the Grenfell Tower-related calls that were taken on the day weren't treated with the right amount of emergency.

"If it had been one of the really big and expensive mansions in Notting Hill, I think the London Fire Brigade would have been under extreme amounts of pressure. More so then they were on the day of Grenfell to have done something about it."

The retired firefighter Ray said: "He's wrong, wrong, wrong. I'm at boiling point with comments like this."

Ray said when the notification comes through, "it's like a switch is flicked and there is no bias or opinion that ever comes in to the mind of any single individual." He said firefighters only see the address that's in front of them and the work they've got to do.

The Grenfell Tower fire killed 72 people and injured 70.
The Grenfell Tower fire killed 72 people and injured 70. Picture: PA

"If that's pulling people out literally by their shoestrings or just attending a false alarm, it's that mindset of every firefighter, especially in London, that is on the forefront of their minds when they turn out of that station."

Ray asked Juan where he was coming from and Juan replied that when Grenfell was burning down "there were firefighters stuck around that were waiting for orders from superiors that weren't giving them for at least two and a half hours before they made any attempt to go in."

He also said: "Everyone was told to stay in their houses and they shouldn't have. Third point, that building burnt from the outside in whereas most buildings burn from the inside out. People had enough time to get there and get out but they weren't allowed to get out because they were given misinformation from the people that were meant to be leading that operation."

Juan said that Ray, being caucasian, may not have felt "pressure from the country surrounded by race."

Ray said he didn't accept any of that: "I know from policy and from station attendance through to organisational awareness, I've actually done the job. This individual hasn't.

I would suggest that on the night firefighters were standing around waiting for instruction because there's an awful lot of things going on."

He continued that fires do normally go from the inside out and the fire acted "irrationally and it was unprecedented."

Ray said his son, who is a firefighter, risked his life going in "time and time again... as did every firefighter there I would suggest.

"They would not have stopped until conditions got so bad that they could not progress any further."