The senior firefighter who rescinded the order for trapped Grenfell Tower residents to “stay put” in their flats and await rescue was today appointed as the new head of London Fire Brigade.
Mr Roe revoked the “stay put” policy three minutes after taking command of the scene at 2.44am on June 14, 2017, having realised the integrity of the 24-storey tower had failed catastrophically and that the flats were unable to protect inhabitants.
He ordered firefighters to set aside concerns for their own safety and fulfil their “moral duty” to continue to search for survivors. His actions saved many lives. Survivors were rescued until 8am.
Mr Roe, a former Army officer, has been with the brigade for 17 years, having joined Clerkenwell station aged 27.
He became deputy commissioner only last month, having been incident commander at the 2016 Croydon tram crash and at the 2017 London terror attacks.
He will take up the £202,000-a-year post on January 1, the Mayor announced today.
Mr Khan said: “The Grenfell Tower Inquiry report made it clear there were institutional failures that meant, while firefighters performed with great courage and bravery, the overall response to the disaster was not good enough, and there are significant lessons for London Fire Brigade.
“I look forward to working with Andy Roe to deliver on the inquiry’s recommendations and to ensure the transformation of the brigade is carried out as effectively and swiftly as possible.”
Mr Roe said: “We have some real challenges ahead, but I’ll be working tirelessly with the brigade, the Mayor and London’s communities to ensure we deliver on the recommendations of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry report.”
In his evidence to the Grenfell inquiry, Mr Roe recalled arriving at Grenfell to “screams of people at the windows trapped in the tower and their friends and relatives shouting up to them”.
At the time, firefighters estimated more than 100 were trapped. A total of 72 people died in the disaster.
Mr Roe ordered 999 call-handlers to tell residents to try to escape. His priority was to “drive the rescue effort as hard as possible — focusing on saveable life”.
When he entered the tower lobby, he was almost hit by a resident who had jumped to his death from one of the flats.
He conducted two mass briefings of firefighters and told them that “despite the significant danger posed we were going to continue operations as we had a moral duty to those trapped in the tower”. This was despite firefighters suffering injuries and one feared lost. The firefighter was later found.
Mr Roe explained his dilemma: “It was a major risk leaving them in their flats and a major risk bringing them into a smoke-filled environment.
“The nature of our duty to those trapped inside meant the benefit of continuing to commit crews outweighed the risk to our crews.”