For the past year, Jim Malone has been making the trip down to London to hear the harrowing testimony of his fellow firefighters who battled the Grenfell Tower blaze.
In his role as Scottish organiser of the Fire Brigades Union, he has represented hundreds of colleagues who have been giving evidence during the first phase of the public inquiry into the tragedy, which killed 72 people on June 14 2017.
Jim himself served at stations in Dundee for 30 years before he retired in 2013 – but despite all his experience little could have prepared him for some of the stories he heard from that dreadful night.
“Up to 1,000 firefighters played a part in fighting the fire and statements were taken from more than 600 of them as part of the criminal inquiry,” said Jim, who spent 12 months from January 2018 to January this year listening to colleagues’ stories.
“During the year I represented firefighters I listened to their stories of fighting that fire.
“Many were incredibly harrowing but I was there to make sure they were properly represented by their union as they gave their evidence.”
“I would regularly travel to fire stations across London and sit with them during what could be up to nine hours of interviewing.”
“Hundreds of firefighters were left devastated and traumatised by what they witnessed.
“They saw horrific fatalities both inside the tower and by people throwing themselves out of the building.
“They also told of desperate bids to save the lives of so many people.
“What they saw that day was life-changing for many of them and I personally met one firefighter who could never return to the job.
”He broke down while being interviewed. He was trying to hold it in but I realised very quickly that he was struggling.
“He had children the same age as many of those he was trying to save.”
Jim said that one particularly harrowing tale that stood out for him was the story of a firefighter who was local to Grenfell.
“He ran a boxing club in the basement of the tower block,” he explained.
“He arrived to fight the fire with his colleagues but he knew many of the people involved.
“He told of desperately, but unsuccessfully attempting to save the life of a little girl who was in his boxing club.”
Jim added: “On occasions it was very difficult to listen to firefighters tell their stories and break down while doing so.
“The firefighters who were at Grenfell probably saw during those days more harrowing scenes than most have to witness in a lifetime in the job.
“Many saw things that no firefighter should have to see. I sat with firefighters at all stages in their careers from very young ones to senior officers with almost 30 years’ experience.
“Each and every one of them said their lives had been changed because of what they saw.
“Among the last firefighters I represented was an older guy with 29 years’ experience in the service.
“He became very emotional as he spoke about moving through the building and how he kept coming across bodies. He was traumatised by what he had seen.”
Jim said: “Not only were officers emotionally exhausted they were physically exhausted. They had to climb so many sets of stairs carrying heavy equipment, including breathing apparatus, but they all spoke of wanting to keep going even as they were aware their own oxygen was running low.”
A report on phase one of the inquiry to establish exactly what happened in North Kensington on the night of June 14 2017 is currently being prepared.