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Bradford City Stadium Fire: The Forgotten Fire Tragedy of 1985 that claimed 56 lives.

It was the 11th of May 1985.The last day of the Football League Season. Five minutes before half-time, the first sign of a fire—a glowing light—was noticed as reported by TV commentator John Helm.

Maitrey Dave
Last updated: 11.05.2019
Bradford City Stadium Fire 1985 | Sports Social Blog

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It was the 11th of May 1985.The last day of the Football League Season. Bradford City was celebrating promotion to the second division after their title win in the Third Division. Bradford City was facing Lincoln City at the Valley Parade stadium which was in the fine mood on account of their title win.

After 40 minutes of the first half, the score remained 0–0, in what was described as a drab affair with neither team threatening to score. At 3:40 pm, five minutes before half-time, the first sign of a fire—a glowing light—was noticed three rows from the back of block G, as reported by TV commentator John Helm. But in less than four minutes, with the windy conditions, it had entirely engulfed the whole stand, trapping some people in their seats. In the mass panic that ensued, fleeing crowds escaped on to the pitch but others at the back of the stand tried to break down locked exit doors to escape, and many were burnt to death at the turnstiles gates, which had also been locked after the match had begun. The stand's wooden roof, covered with layers of highly-flammable bituminous roofing felt, offered no resistance to the flames. Burning timbers and molten materials fell from the roof onto the crowd and seating below, and dense black smoke enveloped a passageway behind the stand, where many spectators were trying to escape.

People who had escaped the fire then tried to assist their fellow supporters. Police officers also assisted in the rescue attempts. One man clambered over burning seats to help a fan, as did player John Hawley, and one officer led fans to an exit, only to find it shut and turn around. Bradford City's coach Terry Yorath, whose family was in the stand, ran onto the pitch to help evacuate people. Another player went into the office space to ensure there was nobody there. One fan put his jumper over a fellow supporter's head to extinguish flames. Those who escaped were taken out of the ground to neighbouring homes and a pub, where a television screened World of Sport, which had live pictures from the ground.


Victims: Of the 56 people who died in the fire, 54 were Bradford supporters and two supported Lincoln. They included three who tried to escape through the toilets, 27 who were found by exit K and turnstiles 6 to 9 at the rear centre of the stand, and two elderly people who had died in their seats. Some had been crushed as they tried to crawl under turnstiles to escape. One retired mill worker made his way to the pitch, but was walking about on fire from head to foot. People smothered him to extinguish the flames, but he later died of his injuries in hospital. Half of those who died were either aged under 20 or over 70, and the oldest victim was the club's former chairman, Sam Firth, aged 86. More than 265 supporters were injured.

Appeal fund

The Bradford Disaster Appeal fund, set up within 48 hours of the disaster, eventually raised over £3.5 million (£10.4 million today). The most memorable of hundreds of fundraising events was a reunion of the 1966 World Cup Final Starting XI that began with the original starting teams of both England and West Germany, and was held at Leeds United's stadium, Elland Road, in July 1985 to raise funds for the Appeal fund. England won the re-match 6–4.

In the past decade there have been number of enquiries and investigations regarding the fire started leading to various controversies.

Whatever the reason maybe,the loss of lives of 56 innocent fans on the ill fated day of 11th May,1985 will forever be remembered by the football community and the disastrous fire still has a long standing memory in the minds and hearts of the City of Bradford.

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