London mother's decisive action saves her family from tower fire

As flames violently leapt from an apartment tower in London on the night of June 14, 2017, 39-year-old Natasha Elcock, her partner, and her six-year-old daughter slept in their beds, unaware of the terrifying events awaiting them.

Once the family noticed that something wasn't right and saw to their horror that the building was on fire, they called the fire department. They were told to stay calm and not leave their apartment under any circumstances as help was was on the way.

Though extremely afraid, Natasha and her partner trusted the fire department's advice; they remained in their apartment on the 11th floor of Grenfell Tower and waited. The couple followed the safety regulation everyone in the 24-storey apartment block knew: the "stay-put" rule. If there is no fire in living spaces or in the corridor, nobody is allowed to leave their apartments. The building was equipped with fireproof doors that could hold back the flames for 30 minutes – more than enough time for the fire department to escort residents to safety. In theory.

However, this very rule led to scores of deaths in Grenfell Tower on June 14. As fire crews feared the tower might collapse, the evacuation procedure was interrupted while the fire was being extinguished – a decision that has since been heavily debated.

After 90 minutes of waiting in fear, Natasha and her family were told that they should now attempt to escape by their own means. But in trying to leave the apartment they burned their hands on the door knob which had now become scalding hot. This meant the door could no longer be opened.

Facing desperate circumstances, Natasha refused to panic. She ran through the apartment, turned on all the faucets, and let the rooms flood. She threw water on the walls and any surface within reach. The family huddled together in the coldest room and laid their young daughter out on a soaked rug. The door buckled under the heat and the windows cracked. They didn't know how much longer they could last or if anyone was even coming to save them.

Then something miraculous happened. After what felt like an eternity, firemen broke down the door at around 3 am. Rescue personnel brought the exhausted family to safety where the family had to receive medical treatment for smoke inhalation.

It is now known that at least 30 people perished in Grenfell Tower and many more are still missing. If Natasha hadn't acted so swiftly and decisively, she and her family would've also been among the victims.


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