When the devastating Grenfell Tower fire broke out, more than 40 fire engines were needed to put out the deadly blaze. And in one of those trucks was 26-year-old April Cachia, who had started on the job just five days earlier.
In an exclusive interview with the Telegraph, Ms Cachia explained that she had never even battled a fire before she arrived at the north London tower block.
“The smell of smoke, the sound of crackling, the sound of debris hitting the ground, children screaming, people handing you their phones to speak to their loved ones – they’re the things you won’t ever forget,” she explains.
Ms Cachia said she saw the block “completely engulfed in flames” when she and her crew arrived at the scene after hearing the announcement at the fire station just after 2am.
“I didn’t have anything to compare it to – this was the first proper job really where I have seen actual flames,” she said.
“You try and block out as much of your emotion as you can so you can do the best job that you can. It was absolute chaos.”
The new firefighter spent an “awfully long time” inside the apartment block.
“We started helping people on the third floor, but we ended up on the tenth floor,” she recounted. “You want to get to them, so you end up going higher and higher.”
The dedication of colleagues was also a source of pride and inspiration for the new recruit.
“You’ve got babies being bought out and firefighters, putting their helmets on the children so that they can be safe. If they didn’t have a spare one they would have taken theirs off and put it on the child,” she said.
“This hasn’t put me off the job at all, if anything it has made my hungrier to carry on.”