'We weren't there to help' - Fire control room failings after Manchester Arena attack

Janine Carden, a senior fire control room operator told the inquiry we weren't their to help

A senior control room operator tearfully told a public inquiry "we weren't there to help" after it took more than two hours for the fire service to attend the Manchester Arena bombing.

Janine Carden, a former operations manager at North West Fire Control (NWFC), wiped away tears as she detailed the confusion and communication problems that led to the long delay.

As police and ambulances raced to the scene of the terror attack, fire crews, some so close they had heard the bomb detonate, were ordered to drive three miles in the opposite direction.

Fire crews held back from entering the Arena for more than two hours

Amid fears of an active shooter, fire crews, trained to help with trauma injuries and carrying stretchers, were held back, thinking police were dealing with the "threat" before getting the go-ahead to move in.

They were ordered to stay away from the area and muster at Philips Park Fire Station, three miles from the arena in east Manchester.

Ms Carden took command at NWFC HQ at 11.10pm on May 22 2017, around 40 minutes after the bombing, which was at 10.31pm.

John Cooper QC, representing some of the bereaved families, asked: "Did you have any appreciation that the fire and rescue service were effectively stalled at Philips Park?"

Fire control operators failed to pass on key information to a senior firefighter in the aftermath of the Manchester Arena bombing.

The first crew from Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service did not arrive at the scene of the explosion on the evening of May 22 2017 for more than two hours.

22 people were killed in the Manchester Arena attack in 2017. Credit: PA/ITV News

Around 10 minutes after the blast, station manager Andy Berry nominated a rendezvous point for firefighters some three miles away from the arena.

He previously told the hearing into the terror attack he would have sent fire crews straight to the Arena if he’d known the Ambulance service and Police were already there.

Fire control operator Dean Casey apologised for not sharing that information. 

Dean Casey - fire control operator

Another Fire Control operator Joanne Haslam also failed to tell Mr Berry that the Police and Ambulance service were already at the scene.

Ms Haslam told the inquiry she believed the control room worked well that night, managing conflicting and confusing message.

 And the inquiry heard how a joint regional centre was created in In 2014 bring Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Cumbria and Cheshire fire services under one control room and improve working practices.

 However duty team leader Michelle Gregson described the joint regional control room as "too big" with more "disadvantages" than "advantages."

 She described the scene in the control room on the night as "absolute bedlam" and "unprecedented." 

Michelle Gregson - duty team leader

When asked why she didn’t question the decision by station manager Andy Berry to send officers to Philip’s Park fire station she admitted that her lack of local knowledge meant she didn’t know where Philip’s Park fire station was or that it was further away from the Arena.

 She also said she found it "extraordinary" that Fire control has been left out of terror control training exercises.