Salem Fire Chief Heath Everett said the fire department received the call at 5:59 a.m. and were at the scene by 6:03 a.m. with three trucks. The Camp Fire Department was also called to assist in putting out the flames.
"When we arrived, the fire was in the basement, then it went up into the floor, then through the roof at the west end of the building," Everett said.
According to Everett, the fire appeared to have started in the basement near the heating and cooling system. It took both fire departments two hours and 45 minutes to extinguish the flames.
Drenda Sutton and her husband Edward, owners of Body Works, inspected the damage Jan. 5. "It just makes me sick," Drenda said as she looked at the seemingly untouched entrance to the gutted building.
The fire did so little to the facade of the building that as the two were looking at the damage, one of Body Work's 250 members drove up and asked if the gym was open.
Most of the outside and the front of the building were untouched by the flames but the inside and the west end of the building were completely destroyed.
"We really don't know what we are going to do," Drenda said. "It all depends on if we've got enough insurance to cover it."
Drenda said she knows there is a need for a gym in the area, especially for the elderly. She said now it is going to be difficult for them to find a place where they can work out and stay fit and active.
Drenda estimated there was about $120,000 of exercise equipment was lost. "Probably $50,000 or more in electronics and computers," Edward said.
In 2007, the couple said they bought the building from the Church of Christ and spent about $40,000 to do repairs and make it look more like a gym instead of a church. "There was a lot of heart and soul put into it," Drenda said.
The building had a siren system set up for fires. Edward said a person could hear the siren from the location of the building to the town square. Both Edward and Drenda said one firefighter told them the siren was still sounding as firefighters were trying to put out the flames. It eventually shut off when the fire spread to the wires connecting the alarm. The melted electronic alarm box is still hanging on the blackened wall of the gym's entrance.
Drenda said they have to deal with two different insurance companies. One covers the building and the other covers the expenses of the gym. "If somebody were to have regular insurance and not gym insurance, they would be in big trouble," Drenda said. "The equipment is so expensive." Drenda also said, the insurance company is responsible for the clean-up of the building if they decide it is too unstable to salvage.
Though the front of the building looks fine from the outside, the inside is a smoke laden rubble. Desks are covered with a thick layer of ash, soot and melted electronics and the exercise equipment is now nothing more than steel skeletons with bits and pieces of them melted on to the floor. One solid oak table has a round hole burnt through an edge of it.
The basement, where the fire is thought to have started, used to be the men's exercise room. Not much is left of it now except an old washer and dryer, some bar bells and some exercise pads that still feel a bit squishy under the feet.
According to Drenda, they had just finished celebrating the new year and were just settling in to 2009, when each of them got a call Jan. 3 telling them about the fire. "When they called me at 6:17 (a.m.), they said it was fully engulfed," Drenda said. Edward said he was out hunting around Sharp County when he got the call.
"I think, now, people will realize that we need (a gym)," Drenda said.
"It's hard to believe it," Drenda said.
For those Body Works members who have already paid their January membership, the Suttons said they are willing to refund their money if they give them a call at 371-0313.