Fire Damages Sterling Sports Center - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Fire Damages Sterling Sports Center

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A fire and explosion rocks Sterling's largest parks facility.

The Westwood Sports Center suffered heavy smoke damage in the building that houses its fitness center and tennis courts.

It took four fire departments to put the fire out.

The building's sheer size caused problems for the fire fighters.

High ceilings trapped smoke and also dampened the department's heat seeking cameras.

Making it difficult for the firefighters to figure out exactly where the fire was spreading.

It did catch some of the insulation in the ceiling on fire, smoldering and forcing crews to cut holes in the roof.

There's no cause of the fire known yet, but the fire captain believes he knows what caused an explosion.

Sterling fire Captain Mike Dettman says, "We're willing to bet there was some gasoline stored in there, as well as some acetylene cylinders."

Perhaps some paint and cleaning supplies too. The fire department believes the fire started in the maintenance room storing those flammable materials. The sports center was built in the 70's and has had a lot of upgrades to it, but Dettman says a fire suppression system was not one of them.

"For the most part the only thing they haven't included is a sprinkler system," says Dettman.

Only 20 people were inside the center at the time. All got out safely. Sterling Parks Director Larry Schuldt credits a day suited to outdoor activity.

"If there was any time for this to happen this was the perfect time, because nice weather meant a lot of people weren't around this time of day," says Schuldt.

He says three fourths of the center suffered smoke damage. It will have to be cleaned and repaired, a process he guesses will take weeks.

"We're going to try to get some of the fitness equipment out, get that cleaned and move it to the other building so at least we can have a temporary workout center while the rest of this gets cleaned," says Schuldt.

While the fire crews try to figure out what caused this fire.

"We've moved a lot of stuff in the overall process, it's just a matter of reconstructing the scene and identifying where the origin is," says Dettman.

A process that will be difficult, but the fire department hopes, not impossible.

A damage estimate is not known at this time.

The park district is insured and restoration crews have already been on the scene.