The expert witness in the trial looking into the deaths of four firefighters in a warehouse blaze in Warwickshire has said former Watch Manager Paul Simmons was not "a reasonable and competent incident commander".

John Averis, Ashley Stephens, Darren Yates-Badley and Ian Reid all died as a result of the fire at Wealmoor Ltd's warehouse in Atherstone-on-Stour in November 2007, in what Prosecutor Richard Matthews QC described as "a needess loss".

Mr Matthews continued: "This is not about stopping the heroic members of our emergency services from risking their lives, and the lives of those who may be under their command, to save others.

"Rather, it's only about the needless loss of four lives, four individuals, lost as a result of having been sent into a situation where no-one was in peril... sent into what was, and should have been recognised as, an obviously dangerous situation for no good reason."

It's claimed the warehouse was only filled with boxes at the time Mr Simmons sent in fire crews, allegedly without completing a full assessment of the risks of the situation.

Mr Matthews added that this was where Mr Simmons, and his fellow defendents, Watch Manager Adrian Ashley and Station Commander Timothy Woodward "failed and failed very badly".

Turning to his expert witness, independent fire consultant and former firefighter Dr Michael Dennett, who agreed that Mr Simmons should have known the building was full of smoke when the arrived and that the resources he deployed (a 19mm-diameter hose reel) would be inadequate

The court also heard that an investigation carried out by Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service indicated the fire had been started deliberately.

The trial continues.

(pictures from LtoR: Ashley Stephens, Darren Yates-Badley, Ian Reid, John Averis)