Ten years up in smoke but Lancaster gym owner vows to carry on

The owner of the city centre gym which was gutted by fire has said she will not be defeated by the devastating blow to her business.

Thursday, 31st March 2016, 8:21 am
Updated Thursday, 31st March 2016, 9:26 am

Alison Walsh was left devastated as the gym and health club she has devoted the last 10 years of her life to went up in flames last Thursday morning.

The fire caused chaos across the city centre, with thick smoke forcing numerous shops and businesses to be closed for several hours.

Fortunately only about six of the gym’s 400 members were inside at the time, along with two members of staff.

Alison Walsh.

All were safely evacuated.

Alison said: “I was out for a run and I got a call from the front of house manager to say there had been a fire.

“By the time I got back they had already evacuated the building and the fire brigade were there.

“I was expecting a tiny fire that had just caused a bit of damage, but I was there within five minutes and all I could see was the street filled with smoke.

Alison Walsh.

“I went in through the back and was immediately ushered through by the fire crews.

“After that it was just a waiting game.

“I just couldn’t believe it. The whole place was covered in smoke and flames.

“Devastated isn’t the word. Ten years of blood, sweat, tears and determination have gone up in flames.”

Alison is now faced with getting her gym back up and running.

It is believed the fire broke out in a sauna inside the top floor changing rooms.

Fortunately the gym’s sturdy walls, fire doors and concrete floors prevented the blaze spreading to the floor below, although it still suffered from severe water damage.

“Luckily no one was hurt,” she said. “The firefighters were amazing; they were on the scene within three minutes.

“We still don’t really know what the cause of the fire was. The fire investigation team are still sifting through the rubble.

“Everything was serviced regularly and we had annual fire checks.”

Alison knows there is a long road to recovery at the stricken gym.

Structural engineers have been examining the listed building, and an asbestos survey has been carried out.

Electricity also had to be reconnected to the property, as well as to the four surrounding shops below.

In the meantime, 24-hour security has been put in place at the site.

“We are urging people to bear with us,” Alison said.

Mum-of-three Alison, 37, set up the gym with her husband Mark in 2006.

Although they live near Bury, they fell in love with the Penny Street location.

The fire was particularly devastating for Alison and her team since the gym was due to mark its tenth anniversary in June.

Only last year it underwent a full refurbishment.

Alison said: “We were planning a big celebration in June, and we are hoping to still do that.

“My whole livelihood was ripped up in front of my eyes.

“All our staff and members have been amazing. If it wasn’t for them I would probably have just celled it quits.

“I don’t think I would have come back from this.

“But the support we have had and the messages I have received have been brilliant.”

Bayfit, Endure, Crossfit, Fitness Formation and Gymophobes have all offered a free month’s membership to Alison’s members.

Hustle nightclub also loaned part of their premises for Inspire classes to be held.

Alison is hopeful she will have found a new temporary location by the weekend.

“We have had really kind offers from other gyms,” she said. “We are looking at several places for a short-term lease; hopefully somewhere that has a licence to teach classes or a hall.

“We are not taking any membership payments for now.”

Gym members who need to contact Alison can email [email protected]