Fire closes MAX fitness centre in Mount Pearl

A fire early Thursday morning forced a gym and child program centre in Mount Pearl to close.

The fire at the MAX Wellness centre on Olympic Drive was spotted by an off-duty firefighter around 4 a.m.

"He immediately dropped into the Mount Pearl fire station right across the road and reported it to us," said deputy fire Chief Robert Fowler. "Of course being in such close proximity to Mount Pearl fire station, our crews were on the scene within less than a minute."

The firefighters who first got into the building were met with "heavy fire and smoke," Fowler said.

"The damage in the building of course is extensive. The right-hand side of the building suffered most of the damage, to the side closest to Olympic Drive," he said.

"Looking at the outside of the building from the front, it looks perfectly fine, but of course the damage is on the inside."

MAX houses both a gym and fitness centre, but also provides preschool, child care and after-school programming. 

In a statement to its members, MAX said all programming for Thursday and Friday at the Mount Pearl location is cancelled.

Parents who registered their children for care for Friday's PD day will be contacted directly, while MAX works on other solutions for programs people have already signed up for.

'Quite challenging,' says CEO

MAX said it will update members when more details are sorted out.

"It was quite challenging. It's not the kind of start to a day that you want — certainly for MAX," said Pat Griffin, CEO of MAX Wellness.

"But once we knew that both our employees were safe and then the first responders were safe, after they did their job, then we quickly turned our attention to — we still have to serve our customers, and how are we going to do that."

Adam Walsh/CBC

Crews temporarily closed the road to traffic Thursday morning, but were cleaning up the site just before 9 a.m.

"Kudos to our fire crews. They made good work of it," Fowler said.

There were no injuries.

The cause of the fire is not yet known and the scene will be handed over to the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary for investigation.

'We're going to get it back'

Griffin told CBC News that the building itself is quite old, but renovations done to the inside were relatively new. 

He said the area with the most damage is the building's fitness room, although Griffin hasn't been inside yet to assess just how severe the damage is or how far it had spread to other areas.

For now, Griffin said he's focused on minimizing the interruption in the programming schedules in Mount Pearl.

"It won't be in that building, for the very short term, until we know more. But, we want to get every program running again soon," he said.

Adam Walsh/CBC

Programs could be moved to the other MAX facilities, or temporary rental facilities, he said, and that the city of Mount Pearl and the town of Paradise have already reached out to offer assistance.

Griffin said he's still waiting to find out more information before having an estimated timeline to when the facility will be fully operational again. 

"It's a special place inside and out, and the community here and our customers have responded quite well to what we've done with the building," he said. 

"So to see it as it looks now is quite challenging, but we're going to get it back. It's going to be a fantastic building again and our programs will continue to live on. For sure."

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador