Firefighters would not have foreseen the risk of external fire spread to the extent that took place on the outside of Grenfell Tower, a senior officer said.
Deputy assistant commissioner Adrian Fenton said he would not expect crews on the ground to be looking out for the possibility that flames would take hold from top to bottom of the block, calling the incident “unprecedented”.
Speaking at the first phase of the inquiry into the blaze, being held at Holborn Bars in central London, he said he was not aware of “what Grenfell was clad in or what was around it”.
“Not to the magnitude that it happened on the night, no,” he replied.
“At all?” Richard Millett QC, counsel to the inquiry, pressed.
“No, not to that extent, not to travel from the fourth floor to the 24th floor in, I’ll pick a timeline, 30 minutes, I’ve not got that detail, but in the rapid spread that that fire went round the building, no, it would not be an expectation.”
He later clarified he would expect firefighters to be aware of the general risk “to a certain extent” but “not throughout the whole building”.
Seventy-two people died as a result of the fire on June 14 last year.
Mr Fenton was intending to set up a brigade co-ordination centre, which is put in place during a major incident to ensure the brigade continues to run smoothly across London.
However, on arrival at the control room he decided to re-prioritise his role as he could see he was needed to help organise the recording of information from emergency calls.
Asked if he was surprised to learn there were more than 115 emergency fire survival guidance calls by 2am, he said: “Yes, that’s a hell of a lot, yes.”
He was shown an LFB policy document titled communication with control, which states it is vital for the control room to be informed of the action being taken on the ground to help trapped 999 callers.
Richard Millett asked: “Are you saying that the policy is fit for, in your experience, fit for one or two (calls)?”
“No, I wouldn’t like to put an exact figure, but it’s not fit for multiple numbers of the night that we had at Grenfell Tower, that was unprecedented, and the numbers we had coming in, to cope with that amount of information coming in, was not something that was easy to be resourced or managed.”
Mr Fenton also gave the order for a next-of-kin line to be set up, as they were receiving calls from concerned family members about fire crews’ welfare.