84. In Memory of the 56: The Papers of the Popplewell Inquiry into the Bradford City Fire

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On 11 May 1985, 56 people who went to watch a football match between Bradford City and Lincoln City at Bradford’s Valley Parade ground were killed by a terrible fire.  Many others suffered horrific burns.   A Committee of Inquiry, chaired by Sir Oliver Popplewell, was set up under the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975 to investigate the causes of the fire.  Its Interim Report, published in July 1985, concluded that the fire had been caused by a lighted cigarette or match igniting piles of litter under the stand.

The account of the start and spread of the fire is shocking: litter had been allowed to pile up for years (a similar pile under Block C contained a 1968 newspaper and a pre-decimal packet of peanuts).   The stand was made of wood and roofed with asphalt, which fed the flames and, melting, caused more injuries.  The fire took…

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