“DRINKERS to rescue as pet store goes up in flames”.
This was the headline of an article that appeared in the Telegraph & Argus on January 2, 1985.
The report began: “Regulars of a Bradford pub rescued dozens of animals trapped in a burning pet shop.”
He recounted how, on New Years Eve 1986, drinkers from The Smithy off Thornton Road rushed to the store, called In The Swim, as fire threatened to engulf the building and kill pets.
Station officer Alan Jones told the T&A that when firefighters arrived someone had broken down the door to the store and a number of animals had been removed.
“Rightly they decided that the smoke from the fire was threatening the animals and they took action,” he added.
“They took out birds, guinea pigs and other animals. The most dangerous snakes and specimens were in display cases so that they were shielded from the smoke and left alone.
“A firefighter was taken to hospital with a concussion after an object fell and hit him in the head, but his injuries were not serious.”
Station officer Jones said the fireman’s helmet saved his life.
Tim Rhodes, owner of The Smithy, said one of his door workers and several regulars brought animals into the pub after the rescue.
These photographs, capturing the scene, were taken by T&A reader Ray Banyard, who worked in the fire department control room and was alerted to the incident by a colleague.
“It was a cold night, it was raining hard and it was almost midnight – it wasn’t very pleasant. I saw the cages taken out by firefighters, with animals and birds in them. I could clearly see rabbits in one of them.
“There was a lot of smoke, it was rising through the roof of the building.”
In one of his photographs, a brightly colored parrot can be seen in one cage, and a white bird – possibly a cockatiel in another.
“There were four pumps present, two from Nelson Street, one from Fairweather Green and possibly one from Odsal,” said Ray, whose former colleague and friend NCO Joe Greig was present at work.
One of his photographs shows a firefighter at the controls of a breathing apparatus control panel.
Another, taken from the back of the stone store, in Southgate, shows the large amount of smoke billowing from the roof of the building.
Ray wasn’t sure if all the pets made it out unscathed, but it’s clear many did.
“They didn’t find out how the fire started,” Ray added.
The shop is long gone. It was located in the area where Provident Financial and Jurys Inn are today.
*Do you remember In the Swim or other stores in Bradford that no longer exist?
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