Friday, 25 March 2016

Gym Building Potentially Unsafe After Major Fire

Photo: John Freeman
Firefighters have cautioned that the facade of the building that housed the Inspire Gym on Penny Street is potentially unsound, after the business was consumed by fire yesterday, bringing chaos to Lancaster City Centre.

The gym's owner, Alison Walsh, has been left devastated by the destruction of the business, which has operated in the town centre for almost ten years - but says she is determined to get back in business.

Penny Street was cordoned off for much of the day as emergency services dealt with the blaze, which started after 10.00 am, and its aftermath. Much of the city centre was covered by thick smoke at the height of the blaze.

Just one casualty was reported: a man suffering from the effects of breathing smoke who was taken to hospital by ambulance for a precautionary check.

The fire is believed to have started in the sauna at the premises and both of Lancaster's remaining fire engines (after government cutbacks, the city only has two) and crews were quickly joined by crews from Bolton-le-Sands, Morecambe, Hornby, Preston, Blackpool, Blackburn and firefighters from Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service. In total, over 50 firefighters dealt with the incident

At its height crews were getting through 6,000 litres of water a minute in their bid to extinguish the blaze and the Lancaster Guardian reports United Utilities were asked to increase the mains water pressure in Penny Street to assist with the operation.

The response included Aerial Ladder Platform vehicles from Blackpool and Morecambe in addition to a Command Unit from Blackburn.

Tim Murrell, Lancashire Fire & Rescue’s general manager for the northern area, said the building’s roof caved in shortly after some of his crews had entered the property.

“The initial breathing apparatus teams had gone into the building to check everyone was out when the building collapsed from the roof down, so we had to get everyone out for their own safety.

“We made the decision to shut down the city centre because of the amount of smoke in the area.”

The sauna and gym are on the third floor of a six-storey building and the building was evacuated with no casualties reported inside the business. Premises in the vicinity were also been evacuated as a precaution.

Firefighters have succeeded in bringing the fire under control just after noon, finally extinguishing the blaze by 1.00pm. Fire engines and an Aerial Ladder Platform and crews remained at the scene, engaged on salvage work and to liaise with building inspectors, since a part of the roof collapsed during the incident, and remained on scene until late in the afternoon.

The building is likely to be cordoned off for safety reasons as investigations continue through the Easter weekend.

The Inspire Gym was looking forward to celebrating ten years in business in June
Gym owner Alison Walsh is devsatated - to put it mildly - at seeing ten years of blood, sweat, tears, determination and lots of laughter have just gone up in flames - but determined to get back to work as soon as possible.

"I can not describe how overwhelming your support has been and how determined I am to reopen Inspire, she said in a public comment on Facebook, paying tribute to those who have sent message of support.

"My Inspire Team and members have been amazing and I can't thank you enough for your support today along with the police and fire service.

"I will endeavour to keep everyone updated and in the meantime we will be speaking to venues for a place to carry on training."

"I've been a member a few times, I liked that place," commented Lancaster cartoonist Jack Knight on the Lancaster Past & Present Facebook group.

"Alison and her team were always so friendly. They've lost their jobs and all that equipment and everything. After all the money they've spent updating the place over the years, and they were 10 years old this year too! So sad."

General reaction to the fire was mixed both in the real world and online. We hope the Inpsire team and nearby businesses affected are back in operation soon.

We have to say that we were most bemused by the report of one woman standing outside a pub with a cigarette in hand complaining about all the smoke...

• To keep up to date on Inspire Gym's return book mark www.lancasterhealthclub.co.uk or follow them on Facebook or Twitter @inspire_club

View some photographs of the fire here on Facebook (group membership may be required) 

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