Firefighters will play a part in poignant commemorative events to recognise the 29th anniversary of the Bradford City fire disaster in which 56 people lost their lives and hundreds were injured.
The anniversary, this Sunday, May 11, will see West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS) firefighters attend a remembrance service at Centenary Square, Bradford, before laying a wreath along with other dignitaries and football club representatives.
WYFRS District Commander for Bradford, Martin Speed, will also be attending the Bradford Bulls stadium for a two minutes’ silence as a mark of respect ahead of their home game against St Helens.
On Saturday, May 11, 1985, the devastating fire ripped through Bradford City Football Club’s Valley Parade stadium at around 1540 hrs.
The team had been playing a match against Lincoln City when, what was initially a small fire, quickly spread and ultimately engulfed the whole stand.
Current WYFRS Fire Prevention Youth Trainer Ken Hunter was a firefighter at the time on duty at Pudsey Fire Station when they got the call.
He said: “We receive a call to attend a fire at Bradford City football ground. When we got to Thornbury roundabout we could see the black smoke over the city.”
Mr Hunter was part of a substantial firefighting response from Bradford District stations.
Despite the harrowing circumstances, he also remembers how the tragedy brought the community together.
He said: “One of my lasting memories was the amount of people opening up their homes to supply drinks and comfort to all comers.
“Although that day was the worst day of my working life, and the memories are still vivid, the kindness shown on that day makes remembering easier.”
DC Speed added: “This was a devastating fire and a tragic loss of life. This fire has stayed in the hearts and minds, not only of those in the community of Bradford but also of the firefighters who attended the scene that day.
“I have worked with firefighters who were called to this traumatic incident and who have remembered it for decades.
“The fire service is proud to be part of these commemorative events to pay tribute to the 56 souls lost that fateful day.”
A Bradford City Football Club spokesperson added: ““The 11th May, 1985, remains the darkest day in the history of the football club. It is extremely important to everyone at the club that the 56 supporters who tragically lost their lives that day are always remembered.
“The club is extremely appreciative of the continued support of the West Yorkshire Fire Service and the Bradford Bulls ahead of Sunday’s 29th anniversary of the disaster.”
Bradford Bulls Chairman, Marc Green, added: “In 1985, the city of Bradford and the entire sporting world was left shocked by the disaster which unfolded at the home of Bradford City Football Club.
“Sunday marks its 29th anniversary, to the day, and we as a club wanted to pay tribute to those who sadly lost their lives.
“Bradford Bulls recognise how much this means to the city and its people and how important the city is to sport in the region.”
Supporters planning on attending the Bradford Bulls game are kindly asked to arrive at least five minutes before kick-off (1500 hrs), to join in paying respects.