FORT STEWART, Ga. - Fire may have caused Newman Fitness Center to be down, but thanks to the Fort Stewart Fire Department and with the combined efforts of the Hinesville Fire Department, the Fitness Center is certainly not out.

The Fort Stewart Fire Department was dispatched for a fire alarm activation at Newman Fitness Center at 2:37 a.m., July 29, said William Shanholzer, Deputy Chief, Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield Fire Department. At 2:43 a.m. the fire chief on scene reported heavy smoke and requested a full alarm response, at which time the Hinesville Fire Department also responded in support of the Fort Stewart Fire Department. The fire was reported under control by the interior fire attack team at 3:38 a.m., said Shanholzer, and the fire was declared extinguished at 3:53 a.m.

The smoke inside the fitness center was so thick, according to Shanholzer, that had not the fireman known about or the location of the Olympic size swimming pool inside, it could have proposed a serious risk for the firefighters because they could not see it.

"The Fort Stewart and Hinesville fire departments quick response and team saved and prevented the complete loss of the Newman Fitness Center," said Kevin Larson, public communications chief in the Consolidated Public Affairs Office.

"The most probable cause (fire) is determined to be a malfunctioning timer on the heating unit in the sauna," said Joe McKanna, Assistant Chief, Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield Fire Department. "We are still attempting to determine the overall cost of the damage due to the fire."

There are several things to take into account to determine the cost the fire such as damage to the facility, clean-up and damaged equipment inside the facility, McKanna added.

The saunas at Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield remain closed.

"From a prevention and safety perspective, we are looking at the saunas both here [at Fort Stewart] and at Hunter," said McKanna.

The repairs at Newman Fitness Center are already underway.

"You can tell that this is a top priority," said Robert Harvin, President and owner of ServPro Cleaning and Restoration Services, large loss division in Savannah. "I am basing that on the focus, attention and people at the top involved in the repair effort."

The clean-up crews wasted no-time in getting the fire clean-up started.

"We started the restoration process on Saturday [two days after the fire] with thermal fogging to eliminate odors and on Monday morning the work crews began their work," said Harvin.

The massive clean-up effort requires a multitude of people and countless hours to mop, clean air ducts, vacuum and wipe down everything from floor to ceiling in addition to a vast amount of details that must be met.

"We have approximately 80 people working in two shifts right now, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 4-11 p.m.," said Harvin. "Everything is going really well. The most challenging is the 35-foot height of the ceilings in the basketball court."

"We also have ozone generators in each room and air scrubbers to remove gasses, odors and capture particulates," said Harvin, in addition there are high efficiency particulate air systems to neutralize odor and clean and filter the air."

Most of the damage is contained in the sections where the bathrooms are located, said Jeff Poulin, engineering technician with the Directorate of Public Works at Fort Stewart.

"The sauna and roof sustained heavy damage and engineers are assessing the roof structural integrity now."

Although the damage is great, the re-opening of the fitness center is on key leaders minds.
Chris McCormick, Installation Safety Office specialist said, "The first thing we talked about was a partial re-opening; it is the garrison commands' intent to re-open Newman Fitness Center as soon as possible for the community and we are providing daily updates to the command."

"There are four phases to the clean-up process for Newman Fitness Center to re-open," said Poulin. "The first three phases is in 10 days and is for the gym, aerobic room and both weight rooms (free weights and selectorized equipment). The fourth phase is in 30 days and is for the cardio room, racketball courts and hallways. The phase times all run concurrent."

"We consider this a Family Covenant issue, and we take this very seriously. This issue is so important, everybody is focused," Deputy Garrison Commander Mike Biering said. "We expect to have Newman Fitness Center on line in seven to 10 days, except for the locker rooms. Due to the major structural damage in the locker room area, there will be temporary latrine and shower trailers set up outside of the facility."

Due to Newman Fitness Center being closed for repairs and Cairo closed for renovations, alternate accommodations have been made.

For more information contact the Spartan Fitness facility at 912-767-3031 or 912-435-0071.