London

London's first female fire commissioner Dany Cotton to retire

Dany Cotton Image copyright LFB/PA
Image caption Dany Cotton was one of only 30 female firefighters when she joined London Fire Brigade

London's first female fire commissioner has said she will retire next year.

Announcing her departure, Dany Cotton, 50, said the "utter devastation" of the Grenfell Tower fire was something that would never leave her.

Ms Cotton joined London Fire Brigade (LFB) at the age of 18 and was one of only 30 female firefighters in the capital at the time.

London's mayor called her "truly exceptional" but she has faced criticism over her work at Grenfell.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Sadiq Khan described the fire commissioner as a "truly exceptional firefighter"

Speaking about Grenfell, in which 72 people died, she said: "The utter devastation of the Grenfell Tower fire and its impact on so many people will never leave me."

Ms Cotton revealed she suffered with traumatic memory loss and had received counselling since the fire.

The commissioner said she would "remain dedicated to leading LFB through any findings" from the ongoing inquiry into the blaze.

Ms Cotton previously told an inquiry into the fire that she would not have changed anything about the way her crews responded.

However, a lawyer for the victims of the fire said Ms Cotton and her leadership team were "not fit to run" the emergency service.

She was also criticised by survivors after telling the inquiry she had not spent much time thinking about the disaster as "it would be no good for me to fall apart".

Grenfell United, a group which represents bereaved families and survivors, said they would not allow her to evade responsibility through a "carefully choreographed retirement".

Image caption Ms Cotton attended the rail crash at Clapham Junction in 1988

Ms Cotton said she had worked on "some of the most painful incidents to have occurred in LFB's history" during her 32 years with the service.

Three months into the job, she attended the Clapham Junction rail disaster where 33 people died.

She also led crews when tackling the fire which ravaged the Cutty Sark in 2007.

London mayor Sadiq Khan said Ms Cotton was "a true role model who has broken down barriers for women in London".

LFB said plans to appoint a new commissioner for when Ms Cotton leaves in April next year had not yet been finalised.

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