London fire was like a 'disaster movie'

By Alexander Britton, Press Association
AAP
London fire was like a 'disaster movie'

The sight of flames ripping through London's 24-storey Grenfell Tower looked like a "disaster movie", London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton says.

Just six months into her job running the UK's largest fire service she's told the Observer she got a call about a major incident in Wednesday's early hours.

"It was a truly shocking moment, looking at that for the first time."

"When I arrived I got out of my car ... my first thought was that it looked like something out of a disaster movie, like something that could never happen in London," she said.

More than 250 firefighters tackled the blaze at its peak, with 58 people now missing presumed dead.

The British government has announced a minute's silence to remember those who lost their lives and all those affected by the fire at 11am on Monday.

Cotton had to make a dynamic risk assessment of the tower as a local authority structural surveyor was not available, the Observer said.

"Had we just followed standard fire brigade procedures, we would not have been able to commit firefighters in and conduct the rescues we did," she said.

She said the decision to send firefighters into the building was "very difficult" but that they wanted to save as many people as possible.

Speaking earlier in the week, she said: "For my crews who were on the ground who witnessed it happening it was truly horrible and shocking.

"I spoke to one of my officers who was very near when someone came out of the window, he was in tears. He is a professional fire officer.

"We like to think of ourselves as roughty-tufty and as heroes but they have feelings. People were absolutely devastated by these events."