Just an hour after I had completed my morning workout at the closest gym to my home, Energiverket on Södermalm in Stockholm, one of the solarium’s under the stairs caught fire. The fire spread rapidly and explosively. All residents on the block, one of the most densely populated districts of Scandinavia, had to be evacuated. Traffic was diverted, causing major queues.
Everyone in the cellar gym managed to escape the flames and smoke, either trough the small winding staircase to ground level or trough the emergency exits. Seven people were taken to hospital and treated for shock, minor injuries, and/or smoke inhalation, among them two firemen. Investigators are convinced that a catastrophe with several dead were only seconds away.
Media investigation into the fire revealed that the gym had received criticism from Stockholm’s Firedefence after inspections in 2002. Among the criticisms were the fact that the emergency exits had extra locking mechanisms and that the fire alarm couldn’t be heard from the sauna/showers area.
The gym owner then testified to the authorities that both these and other criticisms had been taken care of. All is well…?
Reports from Thursdays event indicate that neither was true – not all could hear the alarm, some escaped with just a towel round their waists after being alerted by other gym goers. Some quickly realized they had to try an emergency exit because of the smoke, but the lever still had the extra locking mechanism! Only with cool thinking and several tries they managed to open the door…
Below a gif animation of a video of the violent smoke gas explosion, captured by Jonatan, one of the gym goers, on his mobile phone. Two smoke divers had just entered the gym door after reports of people still being trapped inside. Neither them nor the fireman outside suffered any major injuries. Click on the image to go to the full video report (in Swedish) at Expressens webb-tv:
The one reason I left the gym about an hour prior to the fire was that a luncheon was planned to commemorate BODY Magazines sales chief, Stefan Elfving, which is leaving us for another job. Otherwise this time of day was my regular working out hour. So I have to thank Stefan for leaving us, and my boss Ove Rytter for planning the luncheon to this day and time specifically…
Here he is exercising as a volunteer on the next generation of training equipment to be used on ISS (International Space Station). Read more about the story behind it by clicking on the image:
As a side note; the founder of Sweden’s most read blog, Tjuvlyssnat (based on the same concept as Overheard in New York), lives above the gym and had to be evacuated. He saved his laptop and 3G-modem, and of course blogged about the incident. By the way, Tjuvlyssnat is probably the world’s first blog to become a comic book/paper. It has already become a book.