03:08am As we climbed the 50ft wooden escape ladder the fire flashed over from a window below us. Flames came belching out onto the ladder, which had just transported us to the third floor level. My hands felt slightly ‘crisp’ but we had arrived safely. I watched out the window as the ladder was suddenly removed and wheeled away for urgent use elsewhere. The ladder itself was still on fire!
03:11am There we all were, the five of us huddled together on the filthy floor of a derelict abandoned structure. There was no glass in the windows; parts of the floors were missing; most of the doors were gone but here we were in our little corner of London, all five firefighters huddled together on the floor at the third level having been forced here by the fire. I can’t even remember how these two crews came to be together without any water, but we were trapped and the fire was roaring up the stairway outside the room we occupied.
I remember shouting from the window for the urgent return of the 50ft escape ladder that had originally brought us to this undesirable part of the world. The last time I had seen it, the burning wooden ladder was being moved around the side of the building to attempt a rescue of other trapped occupants. Hell they were welcome to it! We were trapped too and the fire was threatening us, but we were ok. In fact, as we sat facing each other, leaning against the walls of the room on this cool summer’s eve, I felt we could have all had a quick hand of cards or something! There was no panic. We just sat and waited, taking turns at the window to shout for the ladder. Everyone in this room had been in this building before. It was our fourth fire here in a week only this time the whole building was going up. We even knew the group of young squatters who occupied this rat-hole as they regularly bombarded us with buckets of urine each time we insisted on extinguishing the open fire they had constructed in the middle of a room downstairs.