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The football match that burst into flames
On the 11th of May 1985, what started as a small fire reported by a TV commentator at the Bradford football stadium ended as a tragedy that killed 56 people and injured at least 265.
The video of the broadcast is ghastly. In four minutes, it spread quickly and swallowed the wooden stand whole, trapping people in the thick smoke, blaze and fumes.
Although there had been some changes to other parts of the stadium, the main stand remained unaltered by 1985. A build-up of litter beneath the stand and its wooden construction facilitated the horrific events. There were even newspapers from 1968 discovered in the debris. An investigation later found that the fire had probably been caused accidentally by dropped match or cigarette between the seats. Soon after the fire started, the wooden roof, which was covered with a tarpaulin and sealed with asphalt and bitumen, caught fire. It took less than four minutes for the entire stand to be engulfed in flames. What is extremely sad is that the stand was scheduled to be demolished just two days after the fire, with the new structure supposed to be made of concrete, not wood. However, we can find a drop of luck here, because the stand was not fenced and people could escape through the pitch. In contrast, the high death toll in the Hillsborough's stadium football tragedy in 1989 was caused by high barriers. When one barrier gave way, people fell on top of each other. Ninety-six people lost their lives and more than 700 were injured. Seventy-eight victims were aged 30 or younger.
Elsewhere in Britain, prior to the Bradford disaster, only the 66 deaths at Ibrox Stadium in Scotland 14 years earlier had seen a higher death toll. However the Bradford City stadium fire was the worst sporting tragedy of its kind in England at the time of the fatalities. Half of those who died in Bradford were either aged under 20 or over 70. The only positive thing is that the inquiries, especially the Taylor Report after the previously mentioned Hillsborough tragedy, led to a number of recommendations which resulted in the introduction of new safety rules at sports grounds across the UK. The changes included removal of the fencing and that many top stadiums were converted to all-seated.
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