25th Anniversary of the Bradford City Stadium Fire

Tuesday 11th May, Centenary Square, Bradford at 11:00

As you look down the list of names you'll come across the name of Greenwood. These belonged to the same family and Felix and Rupert  belonged to 1st Denholme, 8th Bingley Group. Felix was a scout and Rupert was a cub and their father Peter did a lot of work on the group committee and was responsible for getting their original building on the present site. The boys loved playing and watching football.

The fire at Bradford City's Valley Parade stadium in which 56 people died and more than 270 were injured is remembered 25 years on.

Words from some who were there at the time:

Although I was only 12 at the time, 11 May 1985 is a day that will live with me forever.

Terry Yorath, my father, was assistant coach at Bradford City Football Club. They were playing Lincoln City on the last Saturday of the season.

There was a great sense of excitement and occasion, as the club had just been promoted to the second division.

I was in the players' lounge when, just before half time, a woman told us all, quite calmly, that a fire had started in the wooden stand. A cigarette butt had ignited rubbish underneath it.

We were very close to a door and quickly got out on to the street, then moved quietly to a nearby pub.

At first we had no idea what was going on, but even as a child I could sense how serious it was.

One of the most overwhelming things about this fire was that it spread so quickly - in just four minutes the entire stand was an inferno.

Trapped on stand

Hundreds of people in the stand were trapped between the burning roof and the burning floor.

My father, who had been on the pitch, was quickly moved to safety along with the players.

He went to the players' lounge and found it empty, but in another bar found people still drinking without knowing what was happening.

He managed to get everyone there out, but by then couldn't get out through the door, so he jumped from a 20ft-high window.

Trying to find his parents and our other family members, he went round to the main stand and saw fans trying desperately, in vain, to get out on to the street.

They were trapped because the exit gates and turnstiles were locked.

It was a couple of hours before I saw my father.

City fan Paul Firth, who was standing a couple of rows from where the fire started, remembers: "Once the black smoke had come in you couldn't see anything but you could hear screams, you could hear people trying to kick at solid doors to get out, trying to escape from whatever route they could.

"I made the decision to go over the seats and climb down to the pitch.

"A police officer was shouting at us to get on the pitch, partly to clear the way for others but also because the heat was so intense."

There were still many, many people trapped inside the ground.

Dave Hustler was one of them, and was awarded a medal for bravery for his actions that day.

"I got to the corner of the stand and heard a voice - a man lying against the wall was on fire. I picked him up and threw him over the wall and then managed to dive over," he said.

"By this point I was throwing my clothes off as they were burning into my body. He was a 17-year-old boy who had lost his crutches. I was the last person to make it over the wall."

Melting roof

About 250 people entered Bradford Royal Infirmary within five minutes.

The wounded were ferried to hospital in whatever transport they could find - some people walked.

Brenda Verity, the sister in charge at the hospital that day, said many had serious burns to their heads and hands.

"People were walking with their hands on their heads which we couldn't understand.

"Then we found out that the tarmac from the top of the stand was melting and hitting them on the heads.

"So people had put their hands on their heads and come into the hospital still doing that."

Professor David Sharpe had been a consultant plastic surgeon for six months when he had to deal with what, at the time, was the worst burns disaster in British history.

As dozens of victims began arriving, he realised he had to go back to Valley Parade to try and work out how he might begin to treat them.

"It was absolutely dreadful, a bit like something out of Dante's inferno - the wreck of a stand smoking and smouldering, police officers looking for body parts. It was utterly gruesome."

He saw 258 people who needed treatment in the weeks afterwards and was eventually awarded an OBE in recognition of the pioneering work he carried out, which has improved treatment of burns around the world.

Danger warning

A full hearing into the fire began on the 5 June 1985 at the City Hall in Bradford.

Appointed High Court Judge, Sir Oliver Popplewell, heard from 77 witnesses and saw TV pictures from Yorkshire Television showing the fire spreading faster than a man could run.

It emerged that the football club had been warned about the potential dangers of its ground.

In the summer of the previous year, an engineer working for Bradford City Council had advised them that a discarded cigarette could cause a fire under the main stand.

It was due to be rebuilt with steel - and the asphalt roof replaced - the Monday after the fire occurred.

Sir Oliver's most important findings were that all wooden stands in football stadiums should be replaced, and stewards should be properly trained in health and safety.

Afterwards, the Bradford Disaster Appeal fund raised 3.5m and a special version of the Gerry and the Pacemakers 1960s hit You'll Never Walk Alone was released.

I can remember being at a Bradford City fundraiser not long afterwards, when this song was played.

Everyone held hands, and all the adults - the players, wives and club officials were in tears, singing that song.

A quarter of a century on and the fire still affects people. I know my father still carries the mental scars.

What should have been a peak time in his early managerial career was just a terrible time of tears, anger and great sadness for our family.

People have the right to go to a stadium and come home safely.

We must never forget the fans who set off that day - intending to watch a game of football, cheer on their team, celebrate their success - who never went home.

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The Greenwood Trophy is awarded at the annual District Cub Football Competition in memory of Peter, Felix & Rupert

Links

http://www.thetelegraphandargus.co.uk/videoandpictures/videonews/100235/read/