Paul Barlow’s story ‘Those flames must have been 100 feet long!’

I’d been on that pitch, in the dressing rooms and had the stand as a playground many times, because my Dad had been captain of Guiseley AFC for 15yrs and I’d been mascot, they had a good grip of the county cup many times which was nearly always played at Valley Parade.

Bradford City FireMatch days I used to like to be right next to the stand near the bit of it they used to call the ‘Nuttybox’ where all the ointment lot and general nutters were, it was interesting to say the least! So from there I saw it all start, it was about two o’clock up to my right and 10-15 feet away, that is why I looked for and spotted myself in the photo, because I knew exactly where I was at that time.

I watched it go from a barely visible plume of smoke to a tiny flame the size of candle, I can remember the fans in that area chanting ‘Piss on it, piss on it, piss on it’, then it became a bunson burner size then it just took big time, that’s around about where my memories of they day go sketchy, although I can remember the flames going all the way up the back wall, under the roof and spinning around in a circle vortex type thing when they reached the front tip of the roof, those flames must have been 100feet long!

I can remember fans escaping through the little shop that used to be in the bottom corner where stand met kop, they were helping themselves to a few free sweets to begin with thinking it was a laugh, but within no time it was mass panic and they wouldn’t have stopped to pinch a million quid, it was full on panic! and they were escaping for their lives!

I must have got onto the pitch somehow with my friend and can vaguely remember seeing that last man come out who was completely ablaze, I think we were just running around in excitement really, the true horrors are not something a 12yr old brain easily comprehends or wants to admit to, perhaps it wasn’t like that and maybe we watched and saw things that we don’t want want to remember? I found my Dad on the pitch who I knew had been in the kop originally so I wasn’t particularly worried where he was, I can remember him telling me that people had definitely died because he had seen them still sat in their seats.

My younger brother hadn’t come that day because he was supposed to be playing in a schools final at Valley Parade that night, he stubbornly refused to believe what we told him, until we switched on the news.