Vernon Fire Rescue Services firefighters work on a blaze at the North Valley Gymnastics Society’s gym on 31st Street Sunday morning, Oct. 31. (Roger Knox - Black Press)

UPDATE: Vernon gymnastics facility completely lost to fire

North Valley Gymnastics Society’s club facility on 31st Street significantly damaged in Halloween morning blaze

UPDATE: SUNDAY, OCT. 31, 4 p.m.

Firefighters have extinguished a major structure fire that took place in the North Valley Gymnastics Society’s club facility on 31st Street Halloween morning.

Vernon Fire Rescue Services (VFRS) was called to a report of a structure fire at approximately 7:15 a.m. Upon arrival, firefighters found the building was heavily involved. Due to the nature of the fire, firefighters had to use a defensive approach to contain the blaze and keep it from spreading to adjacent properties.

“Crew members worked quickly and diligently, and did a very good job of containing this large fire,” said Deputy Fire Chief Alan Hofsink. “Unfortunately though, the entire building has been lost. We now have an excavator on site to demolish the portions of the walls that were still standing. This is being done for safety and to mitigate the risk of flare ups or hot spots.”

Approximately 20 firefighters responded to the scene, as well as the Vernon North Okanagan RCMP, BC Ambulance Service, BC Hydro and FortisBC.

“The cause of fire is not known at this time and an investigation is underway,” said Deputy Chief Hofsink. “We would like to extend sincere condolences to the owners, coaches, members and participants of the gymnastics club for this great loss.”

No injuries have been reported and no further information is available at this time.

UPDATE: SUNDAY, OCT. 31, 1:45 P.M.

Vernon Fire Rescue Services Fire Chief David Lind says the fire to the North Valley Gymnastics Society’s club gym on 31st Street, beside Chasers Bottle Depot, resulted in a complete loss of the building.

“The fire is under control and we have crews in the mop-up stage now,” said Lind. “We have an excavator on site moving the piles around, and we’re working with the RCMP on an active investigation into the cause.”

ORIGINAL STORY

It’s a Halloween nightmare for a Vernon gymnastics group.

The North Valley Gymnastics Society’s club facility on 31st Street has been significantly damaged in a fire Sunday morning, Oct. 31.

It’s believed the fire started at the facility at around 7 a.m.

Tori Aeichele is one of the club’s coaches and its head recreation director. Aeichele, her mom and two sisters were at the fire shortly before 9 a.m.

“I was sleeping and Missy (sister) was working on Halloween decorations,” said Aeichele, tasked with informing club coaches and parents about the fire. “She saw it – I can’t remember how she saw it – but she ran into our rooms, woke us up, didn’t tell us what was happening. She was like ‘get in the car. I have to show you this.’

“We saw all the smoke and I said, ‘Oh no, that’s the gym’s direction.’ We came here and saw it firsthand.”

(Video courtesy of Matt Nicholas, Facebook)

The fire is adjacent to the railway tracks and railway officials have been notified of the emergency. No injuries have been reported in the incident.

“At this time, it is too dangerous for crews to enter the building so we are using a defensive strategy to keep the fire contained to the single structure,” said Vernon Fire Chief David Lind. “Please stay away from the area for the safety of crews and the public, and to ensure emergency responders have appropriate access to move around the site as needed.”

The VFRS ladder truck, two engines and approximately 20 firefighters are currently responding to the fire. Vernon North Okanagan RCMP, BC Ambulance Service, BC Hydro and Fortis BC are also on scene.

The road is closed from the 48th Avenue turn-off.

Through fundraising and grants, the society was able to purchase and renovate a former RV repair shop on 31st Street into a state-of-the-art new gymnastics home for its members.

The new facility officially opened in 2019.

It’s estimated there are as many as 500 kids registered for club programs. Aeichele said there are 11 paid coaches with the club.

“I’m heartbroken,” said Aeichele. “I feel so bad for the kids because they love gymnastics. They really have fun. At the moment, they’re (fire department) saying it’s all gone. Can we bounce back from this? How do we do that?”

READ MORE: Vernon gymnastics club frothing over foam

READ MORE: North Valley Gymnastics Society receives grant for facility



roger@vernonmorningstar.com

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