The chief of the London Fire Brigade (LFB) has said appearing at the Grenfell Tower inquiry was the “most difficult thing” she has done in her career.
Dany Cotton told the Girls’ School Association’s (GSA) annual conference she had not anticipated how tough she would find giving evidence at the inquiry into the fire.
Speaking at the event in central London, the LFB Commissioner revealed she found giving evidence harder than dealing with the tragedy on the night.
Sustained applause for Dany Cotton after her inspirational speech about female leadership. GSA Heads in awe of her courage and honesty. pic.twitter.com/rWhetFRReH
— Girls' Schools Assoc (@GSAUK) November 20, 2018
Ms Cotton said of the fire on June 14 last year: “Being in charge of that, being there on the night, doing the job I did was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in my life.
“Not least of all because it gave me the biggest sense of responsibility I have ever felt in my life.
“I knew I was responsible for the lives of all of my firefighters that I committed into that building, and I truly believed they would not all come out.”
She added: “The public inquiry is still running now – that has been the most difficult thing I have ever done in my career, appearing at a public inquiry.
“And I didn’t anticipate really how difficult that would be, and how much harder it would be than the actual night itself.
“Because you’re up, you’re facing scrutiny, you’re facing challenge, you’re facing somebody asking you a load of very difficult questions, and you’re trying to give as much help as you can to the inquiry because the main thing is we never want that to happen again to anybody.”
Such a moving and inspirational talk from Dany Cotton London Fire Brigade Commissioner – an amazing role model and leader in a really tough and hugely important job #GSAUK2018#InspiringFutures@LondonFire@GSAUKpic.twitter.com/gH7221ozEb
— Liz Hewer (@SGA_Head) November 20, 2018
Ms Cotton said it was difficult as the LFB was facing criticism for its actions on the night, but that they did the best they could on the night.
She continued: “We will learn from that night, all fire services would learn – how could we not.
“We will do things differently in the future, we will look at things differently.
“But the basic premise is that we shouldn’t have been there in that circumstance, we should never have been dealing with a building that did that.”
The fire chief’s address also drew on the mental health issues she has dealt with since the blaze, saying she attends counselling to help with PTSD.
She further spoke of being a woman in her role and told the assembled school leaders she would encourage them to go back and suggest their pupils consider a career in the fire service.