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)

Okanagan gymnastics facility lost to fire

Vernon’s North Valley Gymnastics Society’s club facility significantly damaged in Halloween morning blaze

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.”

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

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