A fire occurred late Saturday night within the sauna of a second-floor men's locker room at the YMCA in Wilmington, NC. No one was in the building at the time of the fire. The Wilmington Fire Department has ruled the fire as accidental, but the exact cause is still being determined. Because of significant damage and the need for repairs, the facility is closed until further notice.
The YMCA closed at 7 p.m. Saturday. At 11:28 p.m., a police officer driving by the building observed smoke coming out of the roof and called 911.
"It was a very complex building, which made it difficult to put out the fire," says Tim Smith, battalion chief for the Wilmington Fire Department. He added that firefighters had to navigate the facility's two pools and narrow stairs through heavy smoke and heat.
The firefighters contained the fire to the locker room, but the building sustained significant fire, smoke and water damage. The insurance adjustors are still finalizing the exact amount of damage, but Smith estimated that the fire could have caused at least $1 million worth of damage.
David Hines, public information officer for the Wilmington Fire Department, says the entire building was affected by the thick smoke.
"The firefighters were talking about how thick the smoke seemed to be and how little visibility they had compared to what they were used to," Hines says. "It was an extremely tight, closed-up facility, and the humid environment in the steam room, sauna and swimming pool made the air thicker and smoke seem that much worse."
Smoke damage typically requires repairs to walls and replacement of furnishings. In the case of the YMCA, the men's locker room was situated directly above the main fitness area, and both the upstairs and downstairs sustained smoke and water damage.
According to the Star News, the most heavily damaged areas of the building were the fitness area, locker room and sauna. On Sunday, the YMCA began removing equipment and meeting with fire inspectors and insurance adjustors.
Wilmington YMCA President Dick Jones wrote in an email to Club Industry, "My goal is to have plans in place by this Friday to ensure that we are able to continue meeting the needs of our members, program participants and the community."
Hines says, "They may be closed for a few months and are trying to put together a plan for reconstruction and how to get the facility operable and reopened."
In the meantime, the YMCA has cancelled some activities and moved other programming off site. Lap swimmers can swim at the YWCA, swim practices are being held at the Wilmington Athletic Club, the after-school care is being moved to the Temple Baptist Activity Center and the basketball leagues will practice at the St. James Parish gym.