Arson has been found to be the cause of a blaze in a derelict building in Bradford city centre.

The fire broke out early yesterday in a former bookmakers in Godwin Street near the junction with Thornton Road.

The block of empty buildings stands in an area due to be regenerated as part of the £750 million Learning Quarter proposal by Bradford Centre Regeneration.

Godwin Street and part of Thornton Road were closed between 5am and 9am while firefighters and police dealt with the incident, causing lengthy traffic queues.

Investigators believe the blaze, which spread to the adjoining premises, was started at about 3am.

An internal wall collapsed but firefighters said the structure of the building was sound. The buildings have been derelict for several years.

At the peak of the blaze, six fire crews from across Bradford and Leeds were in attendance, helped by two aerial appliances.

The fire took hold on the ground and first floor and caused the remainder of the building to become heavily smoke-logged.

Bradford watch manager Ian Forbes said last night: “We were there all morning damping it down, and we went back a couple of times to check that it stayed out.

“The fire has affected two shops and damaged the ground floor ceiling and the first floor.

“There was never any danger of real structural damage and luckily no-one was hurt.”

Fire investigator Mark Whitaker said clear evidence of arson had been found.

He said: “It is a deliberate ignition in the office of what used to be the Damar Racing shop.

“It looks like the arsonists broke in through the front door but that is still being investigated. The fire was started by a naked flame igniting some paper.

“Some of the flooring has gone and an internal wall collapsed but the damage is mainly aesthetic.”

A West Yorkshire Police spokesman said: “We were called at 3am to the fire which we are treating as suspected arson. Bradford South police officers worked with fire investigators and established that this was a malicious ignition.”

Witnesses should contact Bradford South CID on 0845 6060606.