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Listen: 911 callers describe the fire at The Swamp

'It looks like the stadium is on fire," one witness said in a 911 call obtained by the Tampa Bay Times.
Fire trucks and emergency vehicles parked outside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday. Firefighters extinguished a burning piece of equipment inside. No one was injured, and the stadium and football field were not damaged.
Fire trucks and emergency vehicles parked outside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday. Firefighters extinguished a burning piece of equipment inside. No one was injured, and the stadium and football field were not damaged. [ DAWN CATE | Times ]
Published Oct. 6, 2020
Updated Oct. 6, 2020

“It looks like the stadium is on fire.”

That’s one of the jarring lines from the half-dozen 911 calls about last month’s fire at the University of Florida’s Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. There were no reported injuries, thankfully, and the iconic stadium escaped any major damage.

But the callers didn’t know that at the time.

Related: The Swamp spared: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium escapes damage in fire

“I don’t know if there’s anybody inside the stadium,” one woman said. She reported hearing “a lot of noise” that sounded “like an explosion.”

Some initial media reports said it was a dumpster fire. One caller believed that, too.

“The UF football stadium. There’s a dumpster fire,” one man said.

Afterward, officials said a maintenance tractor likely started the blaze.

The Tampa Bay Times requested the 911 calls soon after the Sept. 12 fire and received them late last week. Callers — including one mother who was at her daughter’s nearby swim class — reported seeing a lot of black smoke rising from the stadium. Another person said the smoke smelled more acidic than burning wood and that a cloud was blowing over the pool.

One person referred to the facility as “Gryffindor Stadium” in an apparent moment of Harry Potter confusion.

The fire at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium was quickly extinguished, and the Gators hosted their first game there on Saturday, a 38-24 win over South Carolina.

You can hear the other three 911 calls here, here and here. UF will return to The Swamp to host defending national champion LSU on Oct. 17.