Monadnock Ledger-Transcript – Electrical fire forces Performance Health & Fitness to close

An electrical fire last Tuesday at Performance Health & Fitness in Peterborough has left the building unusable for the foreseeable future, another major hit after already being forced to shut down operations for close to three months due to the Stay at Home orders earlier this year.

Performance owner Hunter Burgess said he got a call from his fire alarm company a little after 9:30 p.m. on Oct. 13 alerting him there was a fire at his Jaffrey Road business.

Peterborough Fire Chief Ed Walker said the initial call for a smoke detector on the first floor came in at 9:32 p.m. A second call for a smoke detector on the second floor came in three minutes later. At 9:41 p.m. the call was upgraded to a first alarm, which included responses from Jaffrey, Dublin, Hancock and Milford, Walker said.

Upon arrival, it was determined the fire was coming from the electrical panel, which prompted a response from Eversource to cut the power to the building. Using fire extinguishers in the building and from the trucks, Walker said the fire was knocked down within five minutes from the time the power was shut off at 10:05 p.m.

Walker said if not for working smoke detectors and a fire alarm the outcome could have been drastically different. Another thing that helped contain the fire to the electrical room was the fact all the walls are concrete and the ceiling is a heavy wood floor.

“There were not a lot of combustibles in there to burn,” Walker said. “It could have been a very different outcome.”

Burgess said the damage to the building’s main electrical panel, fire alarm system, intranet and internet equipment is extensive.

“It was everything that was in that utility closet,” Burgess said.

Burgess credits the quick response for keeping the damage to just that room.

“I was so impressed and so amazed by the response of our local departments,” Burgess said. “When I pulled up and saw the number of trucks and fire personnel already there I was shocked.”

There is smoke damage throughout the building, as well as soot from the fire and the fire retardant used to put it out that will require a lengthy cleanup process. 

While the fire was contained to the first floor closet, Burgess said it is unclear the extent of the damages caused to the building’s wiring and other equipment.

“There can be damage to wires throughout the building depending on what kind of  heat and energy went through those wires,” Walker said.

As of now, Burgess said it appears that most of the major equipment – treadmills, ellipticals and stationary bikes – will be okay, but an electrical restoration company is currently checking them all over. The main computer that is used to house gym member information received smoke damage, leaving Burgess unable to access the information to connect with members.

“I just want to get the word out there,” Burgess said, especially since he has heard rumors that the business shutdown was caused by a coronavirus outbreak, which isn’t the case. “And anything that will shake consumer confidence right now is so damaging to a business.”

This week, Burgess said he is working to secure a temporary space to house his physical therapy operations “so I can at least get things started again,” and is hopeful a more clear timeline will be established as to when he can reopen, whether it be fully or using certain areas of the building.

“Unfortunately it could be quite a process until we can get back in there,” Burgess said. “I haven’t been given that time frame.”

Burgess had to close the gym from mid-March until June 1 due to the Stay At Home orders, and even when he was able to reopen, he was only able to do so in a limited way. In the ensuing months, guidelines have been loosened and until last week, Burgess said the gym was able to operate at 50 percent capacity, while holding classes and allowing for people to workout. As the weather has started to cool, Burgess said they started to see an increase in people wanting to come back.

“So it’s about the worst possible time for something like this,” he said.

Fortunately, Burgess said he has insurance that will help cover the costs of the damage, but it’s the second shutdown of 2020 that makes it more difficult to deal with.

Burgess said he will continue to provide updates on the gym’s Facebook page and website,

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