Former firefighter calls senior officers 'cowards' after lack of response to Manchester Arena attack

  • Gamal Fahnbulleh speaks with a former firefighter on duty during the night of the attack

A former firefighter on duty on the night of the Manchester Arena attack says it was 'shameful' those who were specially trained were prevented from rushing to the scene to help.

Speaking on why the service took so long to attend, the fireman, who ITV Granada have anonymised, said: "They didn't let us. And it's embarrassing. And it's shameful. We failed.

"We could have packed a wound. We could have stopped a bleed. If we'd have just helped one casualty, it would have been worth it. It's our job.

"We take risks to save lives. It's what we do. It's the fire service DNA."

He has since spoken exclusively to ITV Granada Reports about the effect the Manchester Arena attack has had on some of his team, who he claims tried to assist during the night of the attack.

  • "We could have done something"

He also claims senior officers in Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) were stopping officers from rushing to the scene, even threatening to sack them if they did.

He said: "Officers weren't doing their jobs properly. There were no decisions, so it makes me think they were cowards.

"Officers arguing with each other, not having any information at all between each other.

"In the meantime, we're watching the TV and it was just disbelief. It was. Why are we not there? Now we're angry. Now we're very angry.

"So we start to discuss about self deploying. Four of us were having the conversation.

"Shall we just go? Shall we just get down there? What are they going to do?

"These were the questions we were asking ourselves. Because we're probably 30 minutes into the incident now.

  • "There were no decisions, so it makes me think they were cowards"

"My office was telling us we couldn't go. The lads wanted to go, and I was on their side - I wanted to go.

"Two of my guys stood up, went out the door said 'we're going - tell the officer we're on our way we're coming down'.

"20, 30 seconds later, he followed us through the door and told us that the guy on the phone said, If we self deploy, we're sacked. We need to stay where we are."

He concluded: "I felt like they didn't trust us. Between the five of us. Nine, two years of service in that room. We were ready.

"We knew what we had to do, and casualties were dying."

  • "The guy on the phone said if we self-deploy we're sacked"

When asked about his instinct on the night he said: "Why are we not in there? Why are we not going? Why are we not hearing anything? What is going on? We should be in there."

A few days after the bombing, the group of firefighters went for a walk together away from Manchester to talk through what had happened.

"We discussed what's going on," he says.

"We got angry, we got upset. And we cried a lot and we thought about the casualties and the lives that were lost.

"We could have done something."

Head of the fire service, Peter O'Reilly, told the Manchester Arena Inquiry there were 'gross failings' in the GMFRS response.

In response to the claims made in the interview, a Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson said: "Part Two of the Manchester Arena Inquiry Report will look into the response of emergency services the night of the attack and we have done all we can to support this being done in the most open and transparent way possible."

It continued: "It is right that we wait for the full report, its findings and recommendations to be published before we comment."

The Greater Manchester Fire Chief at the time, Peter O'Reilly, has already told the inquiry about the 'gross failings' in their response.

He told the public inquiry firefighters could and should have been on the scene within four minutes, but instead they did not arrive for two hours and six minutes.

He has since resigned from his role.