Grenfell firefighter Ricky Nuttall was prepared for anything thrown at him in the latest SAS: Who Dares Wins.
The hero who ran into the blazing tower three times in a rescue bid today tells how the Channel 4 series has helped him fight back from PTSD caused by the disaster that killed 72 people.
But after 16 years in the London Fire Service, he admits there was one challenge on the brutal show he hadn’t bargained for – freezing weather.
“The thing I struggle with more than anything else is the cold,” said Ricky, 40. “I was keeping my fingers crossed for Morocco or a jungle. Unfortunately, it was Scotland.”
Viewers will see Ricky and fellow recruits face a heart-stopping ambush on the rugged Isle of Raasay before being tasked with racing up a 4,000ft mountain and abseiling a 100ft oil rig.
“Suddenly there is a hood over you, you’re being screamed and shouted at,” said Ricky.
“You’re crawling across the car park, scraping your elbows and knees. You’re in pain, getting cold water and mud kicked at you. It was a brutal start.”
But despite the conditions, Ricky found his SAS experience life-changing after the horrors of Grenfell shattered his mental health. He reveals he signed up for it when he “was drunk and a bit lost”.
“I needed a purpose and a reason to stop drinking,” he said. “To stop taking drugs and refocus my pain on something positive that would help me heal instead of wallowing in self-pity and despair.”
Ricky was left suicidal and struggling with PTSD after the terrifying blaze in June 2017.
His most painful memory was being forced to leave an occupant on the 15th floor after running out of oxygen on his third foray into the building.
He later discovered the resident had died and struggled to come to terms with the “sheer scale of the tragedy”.
The dad-of-one told us: “Within three months of Grenfell I was feeling suicidal. It wasn’t because I was haunted by what I’d seen, or that I didn’t have the support of my colleagues and family.
“I felt suicidal because I was so broken and sad inside. My girlfriend said I came home a different man. My mind wasn’t the same.”
Ricky’s girlfriend Rachel Handler, 43, and eight-year-old son Charlie pulled him through his darkest moments – and he says the SAS series has “built his determination to recover”.
Ricky said: “I wanted to go on the show to be physical proof you can be suicidal, and three years later be on the SAS course pushing yourself.
"I hope people can look at me and think, ‘right, there is a way back and I can get myself back to good mental health’.”
Ricky, who works at Battersea fire station, says he also wanted to go on the series for Charlie. “I wanted to show him you can be broken, but if you push back hard enough you can achieve incredible things,” he said.
But he wouldn’t want Charlie to follow him into the fire service because “it takes a huge emotional toll. I don’t want that for him”.
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In the tonight’s first episode of the sixth series, the SAS hopefuls are put through their paces by former Special Forces members, including Ant Middleton.
He was later axed from the show after social media posts including a tweet about Black Lives Matter protests.
Former SAS soldier Melvyn Downes, 55, joins the team for this series – the show’s first mixed-race member of staff.