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Fire Causes $2 Million Damange At Popular Haverhill Fitness Club

HAVERHILL (CBS) – A huge fire ripped through a popular health club in Haverhill overnight, leaving long-time members displaced and about a quarter of the facility destroyed.

Firefighters were called to the Cedardale Health and Fitness Center on Boston Road around 2 a.m. and found flames tearing through the complex.

"Everyone is safe! The Club was empty at the time of the fire, crews are responding," the club posted on its Facebook page around 5:30 a.m.

Longtime employee Mary Lynch said basketball courts, food and beverage areas, locker rooms, an indoor pool, and a nursery were damaged in the fire.

Haverhill Fire Chief William LaLiberty said the flames spread quickly, forcing fire crews out of the building. The facility was built before sprinkler systems were required.

"When the fire started going through the roof and material started falling on them, it was time to get them out of the building and take care of their safety," LaLiberty said.

Crews were still dousing hot spots at sunrise, and at noon, smoke was still coming out of the roof into the afternoon.

LaLiberty said that solar panels recently installed on the back of the building made it tough to get water into the roof--and there were some other issues.

"We did have some difficulty with water pressure and the amount of water," he said. "Plus the fact that the building is located in the area that doesn't allow us to put the firetrucks where we really wanted them."

The fire caused at least $2 million in damage.

Long-time members of the club--some of whom have been coming there since the 1970s--told WBZ-TV's David Robichaud that the club has a family atmosphere.

Dave Sayward said the fire was devastating to those who have been going to the club for years.

"It's the social network, the fabric and community of this place," said Sayward. "We've known each other for years. I see the same people every day. They're like a second family."

"It's kind of an icon for the Merrimack Valley," added Eli Morse, a member for 25 years.

The club will be closed Wednesday, as LaLiberty said about 25 percent of the fitness club had been destroyed by the flames.

A nearby gym, Choice Fitness, posted on their Facebook page Wednesday to offer condolences to the club's owners and members--and to offer those displaced Cedardale members free use of their facilities.

Three different generations have run the business, and they plan to rebuild--and to reopen the unburned areas as soon as possible. The staff were also considering renting out industrial space for classes like cycling.

There's no word yet on what caused the fire or where it started. The State Fire Marshal's office is investigating.

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