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1980s / Bradford City Grandstand Fire - 1985
Here is video of a terrible sports calamity: On May 11, 1985, English soccer club Bradford City were celebrating their promotion from the third division to the second division, having mathematically clinched the championship with a week to spare. The final game of the 1984-85 season at Valley Parade Stadium was against Lincoln City. More than 11,000 spectators were on hand--about twice the home average that season--to witness the festive pregame ceremonies featuring the championship trophy presentation. Yorkshire Television, with John Helm providing the commentary, was present to record the match for a tape-delayed broadcast the following day. Everyone was in a jovial mood until about 40 minutes after the match began. A fire broke out underneath Section G of the wooden grandstand--an antiquated structure that had not been modified since 1911 and was slated for demolition at the end of the season. The blaze likely started from a discarded match or cigarette that fell through the grandstand's floor boards. Beneath the grandstand was an enormous amount of flammable material; the team used the area for storage of old programs, among other things. Because of windy conditions, within four minutes a huge fire had engulfed the grandstand. There were no extinguishers nearby and no easy way to exit the grandstand in the event of an emergency. Initially it appeared that everyone was able to escape the danger by jumping onto the pitch, but 56 people died and 265 others were injured. Most of the fatalities were fans under 20 years old or over 70. One victim was Sam Firth, the club's 86-year-old former chairman. Many fans perished near locked gates or in the washrooms under the stands. Wooden grandstands were outlawed at stadiums in the UK following the tragedy. There were many heroic actions during the fire. Some 50 fans later received commendations for their rescue efforts.