Police have arrested the firefighter father of one of four firemen killed in the Atherstone factory blaze on suspicion of manslaughter in connection with the deaths.

Paul Stephens, 54, was among three junior managers quizzed by Warwickshire Police last week as they continue to investigate the November 2007 tragedy.

The veteran fireman was watch manager on the evening his six-man crew, including son Ashley, were called out to the huge warehouse blaze.

In an attempt to get the fire under control, a small group entered the vegetable packing plant at Atherstone on Stour.

But Ashley, 20, Darren Yates-Badley, 24, John Averis, 27, and Ian Reid, 44, perished in the blaze – the biggest single loss of life for the Warwickshire brigade.

Experienced firefighter Mr Stephens was the last person to speak to his son and his three colleagues before they entered the burning building.

Well-placed sources close to the multi-agency investigation into the tragedy confirmed that the father was one of the three men arrested last week by Warwickshire Police.

All were allegedly junior managers and were said to have been present at the scene of the blaze, but insiders insisted they “had no input into the incident command system on the night.”

Warwickshire Police have only confirmed that three men, aged 42, 52 and 54 and all from the south of the county, were arrested and questioned on suspicion of gross negligence manslaughter, and offences under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

The force refused to name the arrested men or reveal their rank within the fire service. The three men were not charged with any offence and have since been bailed pending further police inquiries.

Last month three fire service bosses, aged 49, 48, and 43, were also arrested in connection with the blaze.

It is understood they were managers who played a commanding and organisational role in tackling the fire.

The Atherstone fire was caused by a suspected arson attack on November 2 2007. Sixteen fire engines and 80 firefighters tackled the blaze, which lasted more than five hours.

Last May four Poles who had worked at the factory, including two who were living in Birmingham, were arrested in connection with the fire.

Mr Stephens was unavailable for comment last night.