Camberwell tower block ‘a blast furnace’ during fatal fire, inquest told

18:02 07 February 2013

Forensic officers inspecting the scene of the fire in Lakanal House in Camberwell. File picture: Carl Court/PA Wire

Forensic officers inspecting the scene of the fire in Lakanal House in Camberwell. File picture: Carl Court/PA Wire

A firefighter who helped tackle the Camberwell tower block blaze which killed six people has described the conditions he faced when he comforted a family which had fled out on to their balcony.

Conditions in the cage of the platform were like a “blast furnace”, crew manager Danniel Sharpe told the super inquest into the deaths today.

The fatal blaze broke out at Lakanal House on July 3 2009.

Mr Sharpe told jurors at Lambeth Town Hall that he told another firefighter to direct a jet of water at a fire on the west side of the building.

“I remember debris coming down and igniting,” he said.

“Then I remember a large noise coming from the eastern side - shouts were going up that people might jump.

“We went round there and noticed a gentleman standing precariously on a balcony with what looked like knotted sheets.”

Mr Sharpe was lifted up in the cage with another fire officer to reassure the family on the balcony that help was on the way. They stayed there until they were rescued.

Asked what conditions were like on the platform, he said: “There were high winds, pushing it all over the place. One second it was clear, the next it was thick black smoke, a lot of heat was coming from the 11th floor, it was like a blast furnace up there.”

Asked how he felt when he came down after an hour on the platform, he said: “Exhausted, basically.”

Dayana Francisquini, 26, and her children, six-year-old Thais, and Felipe, three, were killed in the fire.

Helen Udoaka, 34, her three-week-old daughter Michelle and 31-year-old Catherine Hickman also lost their lives. They all lived on the 11th floor.

The hearing was adjourned until 10am tomorrow.

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