Fire crews from across West Yorkshire were called to the Canterbury Youth Centre on Arum Street around 7.30am, where they found smoke pouring from the roof before it erupted into flames.
Firefighters were able to bring the blaze under control by 11.30 with crews on scene until nearly 1 pm, and an investigation into the cause of the fire has revealed it to be arson. West Yorkshire Police are now conducting a criminal investigation.
The fire damage was so severe the centre is now set to be demolished later this week, due to its instability and dangerous condition. It had been shut for a few years and was already earmarked for demolition.
Station Manager Michael Fox, from West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “The place had been subject to quite a bit of vandalism and anti-social behaviour since it shut, and this fire has now caused further damage.
“We worked together with Bradford Council about the precarious situation the building is now in, and they are now making it safe ahead of it being pulled down.”
A Bradford Council spokesperson added: “The decision to demolish the building had already been taken prior to this fire and work had taken place to prepare for that. We will now spend the next couple of days making the building safe and then begin demolition. We expect the demolition to be complete within the next three weeks.
“In the long term we hope to have a new, better, more modern youth centre built on the site for local children and young people.
“Bradford-based charity, One In A Million, is currently applying for money from the Government’s Community Ownership Fund (COF). They have been invited to the second round of the bid process which closes at the end of February 2023.
“If they are successful in the bid, they will receive a grant of up to £250,000, for which they have match funding providing upwards of £500,000 to rebuild the facility on site. If successful, they will then submit a Community Asset Transfer (CAT) application for the land at Canterbury Youth Centre which the CAT team has agreed to support.”
Firefighters left the scene by lunchtime yesterday after damping down the premises. Crews from Normanton, Killingbeck, and Shipley remained on scene into the afternoon as precaution while work to make the building safe was undertaken.
Anyone who witnessed the incident or knows anything about it is asked to contact police via 101 or the 101 Live Chat on www.westyorkshire.police.uk/contactus quoting crime reference 13230100238