Fire service controllers faced 'bedlam' in two hour delay sending crews to Manchester Arena

200121 firefighters arrive at Manchester Arena
Fire crews arrive at the scene of the Manchester Arena terror attack two hours after the explosion

A fire service controller described the situation after the Manchester Arena bombing as "absolute bedlam" and admitted there was no officer on the ground, an hour after the explosion.

Control room messages have been played to the inquiry as the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service took two hours to mobilise to the scene of the arena attack.

It took the duty liaison officer, Andy Berry an hour to travel the 22 miles from his home to the fire station he had assigned as a rendezvous point because of delays, allegedly caused by roadworks and traffic difficulties.

That fire station, at Philip's Park, was still three miles away from the arena. Meanwhile, ambulances were being directed to Manchester Central Fire Station, half a mile away from the scene of the attack.

Ambulance Crews arrive at the Arena

Patrick Ennis, the first paramedic to arrive, had "self deployed" to the arena and the first ambulance did not arrive until 10.58pm, 27 minutes after the attack.

Mr Ennis only approached his first casualty in the City Room, the scene of the explosion, at 11.05pm, 34 minutes after the attack.


Salman Abedi killed 22 men, women and children when he blew himself up in a suicide bomb attack at the end of an Ariana Grande concert in May 2017.

The fire service delayed turning up to the bomb attack for fear of a gunman on the loose, the inquiry heard. 

In fact police had dismissed reports of gunshots wounds as shrapnel injuries within 10 minutes of the attack, information which was passed to fire control by the ambulance service. 

In a 12-minute call between Jo Haslam at North West Fire Control and an unidentified member of North West Ambulance Service control room, the ambulance controller said: "OK I'm getting reports of people being shot. Just bear with me I'm doing the best that I can. There is a report of a shooter going on as well."

But later he added: "We have from the police no gunshot wounds, looks like shrapnel wounds."

The level of confusion at the fire service was reflected in a call at 11.12pm, 41 minutes after the explosion.

At 11.12pm, Ben Levy, the group manager for the fire and rescue service, spoke to Michelle Gregson from North West Fire Control asking: "What's the incident were proceeding to?"

Ms Gregson said they had received a call from the police at 10.38pm that evening about reports of an explosion at the Manchester Arena and added: "Based on the information they gave us, I said don't mobilise."

She said there were reports of gunshots and people wounded and they created a "muster point" at Philips Park.

"Casualties at the moment believed to be 18 fatalities and rising," she added.

"At the moment that is all we have. The operator at the police asked the supervisor to end the call." 

Nevertheless, Mr Levy was asked by Ms Gregson to set up a "hazard zone" to exclude fire fighters from entering central Manchester.

He asked, "Who's at Philips Park? and Ms Gregson told him: "Officer wise at Philip's Park at the moment, we've only got...he's not showing he's booked in in attendance at the moment. It's showing nobody, just the four pumps." 

She added: "I know it sounds a little disorganised at the minute, it's just been absolute bedlam with the staff we've got on duty.

"What we'll do is, we're going to get all our resources on a piece of paper and anything else you need, I promise you I will sound like I know what I'm talking about."

 Mr Levy reassured her: "It sounds like you know what you're talking about."

However at 11.28pm, nearly an hour after the explosion, Carlos Meekin, another officer, called in from Philips Park.

"I've just booked in at Philips Park rendezvous point for this job in town but I've not had a briefing or further information," he said.

Lisa Owen at North West Fire Control, said: "No, Andy Berry, your duty [liaison officer], he's still en route.

"We've only been told he wants four pumps at Philips Park. We've got the command support room open but no instructions as to mobilising to it yet, all he said is make a hazard zone around Manchester City Centre. There's no mobilisations unless there's persons reported."

 Mr Meekin complained that North West Ambulance Service were much closer to the arena: "We've had reports from crews at Philips Park sent here from Central and yet we have NWAS turning up on the forecourt."

 Ms Owen said: "You normally have to be a certain distance away from it. Ambulance, I can't speak for why they've sent them there. 

"We are monitoring the police radio channel as well but until we get told any further we are just putting the hazard zone in place and we are just on standby."