"My heart hurts knowing we have very capable people who could have helped and weren't given the chance..."
On Monday night, the whole world watched the horrific drama unfold as an explosion was confirmed at the Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena. Viewers saw streams of ambulances rush to the scene and armed police arrive. But fire engines seemed strangely absent...
According to statements by furious firefighters, they were held back by senior managers for up to an hour and a half after the explosion...
In a letter to the Chief Fire Officer, seen by the Salford Star, one firefighter wrote about one of his colleagues who was on duty on Monday night...
"His wife is a paramedic and was one of the first on scene at the MEN Arena. NWAS [North West Ambulance Service] staff were told by their bosses that they could not guarantee that the scene was safe, however there were people dying inside and they need volunteers to go in and help.
"My colleague's wife said every single paramedic and technician volunteered to help. They were in the hot zone before the police arrived. However, they were extremely short on manpower and could not cope. Eventually members of the public and the police were helping, carrying out injured people on makeshift stretchers.
"Meanwhile, my colleague, a very experienced crew manager, was held back from helping, not deployed at all. Along with the rest of your staff he was sat doing nothing at Manchester Central fire station. He questioned a senior manager about this at the time and was told 'I have no answers'...
"I've never seen my colleague so animated, angry and frustrated this morning on returning to his fire station. He's not alone, it's a feeling that is spreading very quickly among your operational staff.
"Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service had a chance to help people and make a difference last night but 'We had no answers'.
"The philosophy of risk says that we will take some risks to save saveable lives. NWAS and my colleague's wife took that risk and saved lives, firefighters were not even given that option...Have we lost our way? Firefighters are angry, frustrated and ashamed of our senior managers..."
Other firefighters underlined the sentiments...
"What are we employed for if not to help people?" one asked "I'm full of disillusion in the upper management like never before and really disappointed that they have let us down so badly...It's terrifying for us as much as the next person but that's what we're fucking employed for, to take the risk that others can't or won't. We have the training and resources to respond correctly and that's exactly what we should have done...
"We have been desperately let down by these people today and the guilt I feel is overwhelming...my heart hurts knowing we have very capable people who could have helped and weren't given the chance..."
Another added "They have failed to respond adequately to a major incident and very little will be done..."
The condemnation of senior managers goes go on and on... "All that resource, all that experience and more importantly all that willingness to want to help, in probably one of the most needed shouts in our careers and this was the response from the top! Embarrassed to say I represent these clowns..."
"Police from Wales were in attendance before we were..."
"They were under immense pressure and needed our help and we did nothing for first 90-120mins. The crews and myself are angry and rightly so..."
"There were kids dying...I too have a daughter that would have gone to that concert and the thought of her lying there whilst emergency services sit there not doing anything just saddens and upsets me..."
"It was disgusting. We should be helping not standing around with our fingers up our arses..."
"The public must think what the hell do we actually do apart from free smoke alarms if we don't even respond to this..."
"Never been so ashamed to be a firefighter..."
"This incident is exactly what we train for with the armed police and NWAS. If they aren't gonna use us on that we will never be used..."
"Has the brigade been downgraded from being first responders, to might go if someone has the balls to make a decision?"
Another added "I pray they [senior managers] are hauled over the coals for this by the Mayor..."
The Salford Star contacted Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, who said...
"I am aware of concerns from firefighters about the speed of the response to the terror attack at the Manchester Arena on Monday night. I am taking these concerns seriously and, at the appropriate time, they will be subject to a full evaluation and briefing.
"But they have to be seen in context" he explained "Large numbers of highly-trained professionals were on site within minutes providing support to people. I could not be more proud of all of Greater Manchester's emergency services who, over the last 48 hours, have gone to incredible lengths to carry the city through this dark time.
"My first concern will always be for the families affected and I would ask everybody not to jump to conclusions in this moment when we're still coming to terms with what has happened" he added "What we can say is that this was an extremely serious, fast moving situation and the full nature of it did not become clear for a number of hours. In coming weeks we will have to understand what decisions were made and why."
The Salford Star also asked Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service for a comment and is still awaiting a response.
The Salford Star contacted the Fire Brigades Union which confirmed that an official investigation is underway...
"We are aware of our members concerns and we are in contact with the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service employers to try and resolve those concerns" said Les Skarratts, from the North West FBU
"We have some of our members genuinely concerned about the amount of time it took firefighters to arrive at the incident and whether it was an operational decision or an error was made" he explained "At this present moment an investigation is commencing...and at this point we are putting our trust in the investigation. Let's see if we can get answers to the questions our members are asking..."
Manchester will hold a minute's silence in St Ann's Square for the victims of the Manchester Arena terror attack on Thursday 25th May at 11am, as part of nationwide minute's silence.