Timeline: Fire

This is not an exhaustive timeline but helps capture the tragic events that led to the deaths of the six victims. Catherine Hickman, Dayana Francisquini, Felipe and Michelle Francisquini-Cervi, Helen and Thais Udoaka.

It is a reminder of the speed at which fire can consume property and people and how the fundamental principle of a dwelling being able to contain an intense fire for 60 minutes (compartmentation) is fundamentally flawed in many of our high-rise buildings.

Start of fire


Fire starts according to all the available evidence at the inquest


 Jade Spence calls 999 to report a fire in Flat 65


Catherine Hickman calls 999 for assistance


2 fire appliances arrive on location from Peckham and another 2 are dispatched from New Cross


Radio message to fire crews about smoke seen in Flat 79 and that a caller (Catherine Hickman) is still on the emergency line


A request is made for London Ambulance Service to attend


Fire engines arrive from Old Kent Road


Catherine Hickman describes smoke on her balcony


Catherine Hickman asks operator if she should get out and move down the building and she is advised to stay put


Dayana Francisquini tries to call her partner Rafael Cervi


Rafael returns the missed call trying to reassure her


Ariel ladder platform in attendance

Start of fire plus 15


Catherine Hickman tells the operator that she has moved inside the flat and that smoke is coming up through the floorboards.  Advised to stay close to the floor and put something over her face to protect herself.


Flat 68 call from Beatrice


Flat 69 & 65 full of smoke and message passed to fire control


Catherine Hickman could hear banging and was told to lay down.  In fact at 16.36 LFB firefighters had broken into fight the fire in Flat 65


LFB firefighters confront and all engulfing blaze in Flat 65


Mr Nuhu calls 999 from flat 80 on the 11th floor to report he is trapped with his family.


Catherine Hickman speaking to the fire operator says “Oh my god I can see flames at the door…I’m getting really hot in here”.  Advised again to lay on the floor.


Lounge to flat 65 has smoke on the 10th floor


Flames reported to be penetrating the lounge door of flat 65 (just below Catherine Hickman’s flat)


Panelling on flat 79 missing


Catherine Hickman extremely distressed on the phone to operator


Rafael calls 999 to explain that his wife and 2 children are trapped in he bedroom of Flat 81

Start of fire plus 30


Helen Udoaka calls 99 from flat 82


Catherine Hickman reports falling burning material around her.  Told to slide along so nothing else could fall on her.


Partial flashover in Bedroom 1 of flat 79 where Catherine Hickman is trapped


Crews with oxygen and full firefighting capabilities report arriving at flat 79


Final audible words from Catherine Hickman


Waterjet aimed at flat 37


Collapse of ceiling in flat 79


Flat 79 reported to be in partial decay


Nuhu’s on the opposite side of the building on the balcony on the 12th floor report they are finding it hard to breathe


Start of fire plus 60


Smoke coming out of flank wall ventilation grill on 11th floor


Helen Udoaka in the bathroom with her baby in flat 81 reports it is hard to breathe


Mr Nuhu attempts to let down an escape rope made of bedlinen


Dayana talks to LAS says can feel heat and smoke and fire coming in


Concerns expressed by LFB that there was still a flat with women and children in it


Start of fire plus 75


The Nuhu family are rescued from the balcony on the 12th floor (upper exit for flat 81).  Mrs Nuhu collapses on the stairs and has to be given air by Breathing Apparatus crew


First crew reach 11th floor corridor and find severe fire in progress and can’t get down corridor


Last call from Dayana Francisquini


Last call from Helen Udoaka


Why is the timeline so important?

The fundamental principle underpinning the safety of residents in high-rise blocks is that each living unit can contain fire for 60 minutes.  This compartmentation is designed into tall buildings, but can be easily compromised through maintenance and refurbishments of older housing stock.

This compartmentation is an important consideration too when it comes to fire fighters tackling high-rise fires.  Fire fighters are limited by the length of time they can be exposed to extreme heat and the amount of oxygen they can carry; usually no more than a maximum of 30 minutes.

Catherine Hickman’s call to 999 opened at 16:21 and her last audible words were at 16:49 (34 minutes from start of fire). The line remained open for 60 minutes and Catherine was finally discovered by firefighters at 20:51. The wooden staircase in her flat had been burned through and neither Catherine nor the LFB adviser on the phone nor the firefighters on the ground realised there was an escape route.

Dayana Francisquini call to 999 at 16:42 and at 17:38 (73 minutes from start of fire) in her last call she was still in the bathroom of her flat with her children. Firefighters found them at 18:20.

Helen Udoaka called 999 at 16:45 and at 17:43 (78 minutes from start of fire) she made her last call.  She was found at 20:54 with Thais.  The staircase to the flat they were in had burned through breaching compartmentation.

The Nuhu family all survived their ordeal.

“I am extremely grateful to be able to use the Lakanal Fire footage courtesy of Nigel Saunders and Paul Wood.

All the fire footage of the Lakanal House fire is their copyright.

All other material is BBC Copyright and available through public access online or through the 'box of broadcasts' portal.”

Professor Kurt Barling - 2017