Last month London suffered its most devastating fire since the blitz. The Grenfell Tower tragedy shook Britain to the core and on the front line of the disaster were the heroic firefighters of the London Fire Brigade. It brought to the fore an emergency service who risk everything to help those in need.
This three part documentary series followed the brigade over the last year as they responded to a staggering range of emergencies. It provides a unique insight into their work, with firefighters filming themselves on the dangerous front line using special fire cameras. It is access on an unprecedented scale to incidents across the whole of London.
In this first programme, firefighters talk for the very first time about the Grenfell fire and their experiences of that tragic night. In never heard before accounts of what happened inside the tower, firefighters describe how they feared it might collapse and the horror of what they saw.
Whilst fires on the level of Grenfell are rare, the London Fire Brigade still deals with around 20,000 fires a year. And increasingly they also respond to a range of incidents, including floods and road traffic accidents. The film follows Edric as he responds to the Croydon tram crash where 7 passengers lost their lives. The film shows the affect this has on the rescuers and how they deal with the trauma amongst themselves.
The crews are also called to a big explosion which destroys a block of flats in East London. Firefighters fear people could be trapped inside and have to search the unstable building wearing breathing apparatus. Helmet cameras capture their terrifying point-of-view as they feel their way through the smoke filled corridors facing temperatures of over 100 degrees Celsius. The crews enlist the help of a rescue specialist called Kirby – a six year old springer spaniel.
In Lambeth, Tami is one of over 300 female firefighters in the London Fire Brigade. The mum of one, whose husband is also a firefighter at the same station, juggles the demands of night shifts with looking after her 4 year old son. Tami is called to an incident on Westminster Bridge where a coach burst into flames.
And fireworks night, which can often be surprisingly quiet thanks to fire safety campaigns, proves to be a dramatic evening for the fire brigade as a huge basement fire takes hold in a block of flats. To make matters worse, the firefighters can’t get their trucks close to the flames which threatened to consume the whole building.
In the series, firefighters deal with all sorts of crises. They are filmed as they mobilise to a massive flood in Stoke Newington where the main high-street resembles a river and rescue teams have to search a flooded basement flat. Another rescue team is called to free a woman, who is nine months pregnant, from a car crash by cutting her from the wreckage. And the brigade’s fire investigation team is followed as they piece together the events that led to death of a man in a flat fire.