Kensington & ChelseaNews

“A different type of scream”: Witnesses describe horror as fire engulfs Kensington townhouses

By Ben Lynch, Local Democracy Reporter

A witness has spoken of the screaming he heard as fire tore through a block of flats early this morning. 

Video footage shows the fire shooting up the building in Emperor’s Gate, South Kensington, just after midnight, with the London Fire Brigade (LFB) saying it was under control by 4.40am. 

Large cranes were seen continuing to douse the building in water into the late morning, with nearby roads cordoned off to traffic.

About 160 people were evacuated, 11 of whom went to hospital due to smoke inhalation. 

Eight police officers were also taken to be treated, after suffering injuries helping residents escape. Of those evacuated, around 100 have now returned.

The leader of Kensington and Chelsea council, which is working with the fire service’s community engagement team to support evacuated residents, paid tribute to the work of local councillors, staff from the authority and the emergency services.

Stephen Weber, 54, who lives near the block, said the fire initially appeared to die down after breaking out on the ground floor. However he said it soon proceeded to get worse, eventually engulfing the whole of the building.

“At the very beginning, before the helicopters, you could hear a lot of screaming, people being very urgent about it, get out, people were banging,” he said. “It’s a different type of scream.”

Stephen Weber (Picture: LDRS)

Mr Weber said he knows a lot of people living in the street, and was concerned about those caught up in the fire. 

“My heart sank because it’s people’s lives. It’s their home. At that point, when it went through the roof after being on the ground floor like that, I knew the whole building was basically destroyed. You can’t help but feel bad for that. It’s heart-wrenching.”

Cristina Santisteban, 31, was at home nearby when she woke up and smelt the smoke coming from the building. “It was huge,” she said. “It was scary to be home to be honest.”

“You didn’t really know the magnitude,” she added. “To be honest, now it looks much smaller than it looked.”

Another man, who wished to remain anonymous, was in the hostel next door and among those evacuated. He said: “At first, I was not sure it was a fire, maybe a fight, maybe a car crash. I just heard screams.

“But as it goes on and on, I think well, it’s not just people shouting,” he added. “It was quite scary. When you don’t know what’s going on, the reality of it.”

Kensington and Chelsea council has supported those evacuated following the fire. 

Cllr Elizabeth Campbell, leader of the Conservative administration, said the local authority is focussed on helping people over the weekend, including finding accommodation.

“I would like to pay tribute to my deputy leader, Kim Taylor-Smith, who was here on the scene helping, helping people check into hotels, and Sam Mackover, a local councillor who was also here, and our team of officers who you can see around you,” she said.

Cllr Campbell added she wished to thank the ‘fantastic’ council staff for their efforts over the morning, who supported residents with tasks ranging from buying clothes to toothbrushes.

The roof and third floor of the building were destroyed in the fire, with the first and second floor extensively damaged. The ground floor was ‘partly damaged’, the LFB said.

Ben King, LFB Borough Commander for Kensington & Chelsea, said: “People displaced from properties were taken to a local rest centre where they have been given support by our Community Engagement team, the local authority and other partners.

“About 100 people have since been able to return to neighbouring properties.

“Road closures remain in place and emergency services are likely to remain at the scene throughout the day so we would ask people to continue to avoid the area.”

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Pictured top: About 160 people were evacuated due to the fire in South Kensington, 11 of whom went to hospital due to smoke inhalation (Picture: LDRS/Video: LDRS)


Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Everyone at the South London Press thanks you for your continued support.

Former Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has encouraged everyone in the country who can afford to do so to buy a newspaper, and told the Downing Street press briefing:


If you can afford to do so, we would be so grateful if you can make a donation which will allow us to continue to bring stories to you, both in print and online. Or please make cheques payable to “MSI Media Limited” and send by post to South London Press, Unit 112, 160 Bromley Road, Catford, London SE6 2NZ

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.