Jennifer Toope was getting her seven-year-old son, Ryder, ready for school at 7 a.m. Thursday when she checked social media and saw she had been tagged in a post.
It was The Telegram’s Facebook page, which had posted coverage by photographer Keith Gosse of a fire that heavily damaged the Max Athletics building, located at 1 Olympic Dr. in Mount Pearl.
The news alarmed Toope, as Ryder, who is in Grade 2, goes to Max daily for the after-school program.
“I panicked,” she told The Telegram later in the afternoon, noting she had to go to her full-time daytime job, while her husband works a rotation job out of town.
She had to figure something out fast.
“Luckily, within a few hours, I had a backup plan in place for after-school care until things can be figured out,” said Toope, adding that Ryder loves the program and was disappointed he couldn’t go.
“Between my husband’s rotation and some neighbours and a few friends, we can cover off after-school care for the immediate future. It’s not a long-term solution, but it will work for the next few weeks until they figure out what is going to happen.
“We’re lucky to have a strong support system. … We’re OK, but there are people left in a really tight situation.”
The St. John’s Regional Fire Department received the call from an off-duty firefighter, Chris Cooper, who was passing by on the way to drive his wife to the airport at 4:12 a.m. when he saw smoke and notified his colleagues at the Mount Pearl Fire Station.
Since the Mount Pearl Fire Station is directly across from the Max Athletics building, firefighters were on the scene within a minute and found heavy smoke and flames coming from the building.
According to Gosse’s report, firefighters brought the blaze under control, but not before that section was heavily damaged and the rest of the building had been damaged by smoke. A section of the roof was also sagging.
Insurance adjusters were at the building Thursday afternoon.
There is no word on the cause of the fire, and there were no injuries.
Just before noon Thursday, a post on Max Athletics' Facebook page stated, “We are thankful to report that no one was in the building at the time, so there were no injuries.”
It went on to say all programs have been cancelled for Thursday and Friday.
“We want to assure you that our team is diligently working on solutions right now and will continue to keep you informed as the situation becomes clearer,” the post states.
“We thank you for your patience as we work through this complex situation and will be in touch with more detailed information very soon.”
Beth Knight of Conception Bay South hopes programs get up and running soon, as her son is enrolled in Max’s martial arts program, which runs three times a week.
“We are devastated beyond words,” said Knight, who didn’t want to disclose her son’s name.
“We’re hoping and praying we can have a place to continue his martial arts because (it’s) really helped shape my son. He enjoys the friendships made there, and the instructors are top notch.
“This facility is so important for the community. I hope they can repair the building soon, because it’s saddened many people.”