By Kayli Harley, Staff writer
// One second tennis players are mindlessly hitting the ball across the net. Two seconds and there is an explosion. Three seconds and the flames spark. Four seconds and kids are racing off the courts. Five seconds and the flames capture the clubhouse.
At approximately 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 27 the Lafayette Tennis Club caught fire after a fallen power line started the blaze off of highway twenty four. The fire decimated the clubhouse but did no harm to the tennis courts.
At the time the fire started, a Lafayette Tennis Club Junior Tournament was in progress. The staff of the club heard an explosion behind the clubhouse and then swiftly ordered everyone to evacuate the courts.
Pablo Schurig, a tennis coach who has been teaching at the Lafayette Tennis Club for seventeen years, received a frantic phone call from the owner of the club, telling him that everything was on fire.
“As you can imagine, that was a very scary conversation, and I did not know if anyone was injured or possibly killed,” Schurig said. “I turned on the news and the details of fire at the tennis club were just emerging and the news anchor was encouraging everyone to evacuate the area because the fire was spreading fast.”
According to Harsha Rebby, who was playing tennis in the tournament when they were told to evacuate, everyone on and off the courts ran to their cars to get away from the flames. By the time that Rebby was leaving, the fire had almost reached the Living Lean Personal Training Gym, one of the two other businesses that operate out of the tennis club.
Both the Harriet Plummer Aquatics School and the Living Lean Personal Training Gym are dependent on the clubhouse space to operate. Consequently, with the clubhouse destroyed, both businesses are on hold until it is rebuilt. The owner of the Lafayette Tennis Club, Hunter Gallaway, plans to get repairs underway immediately to ensure that these businesses can function again soon.
“After I rebuild we will probably pick that [Living Lean Personal Training Gym] up after I build a new gym. But, in the meantime that is going to be out of commission until a new gym is built, which could be a long time,” Gallaway said. “The Harriet Plummer Swim School is down but we are trying to get them back in business as soon as possible.”
Aside from getting the swim school underway again, Gallaway’s other primary goal is to restore power to the lights on the tennis courts to prepare for Daylight Savings.
Although the courts were not subject to damage, all tennis playing is held off until repairs are made. The tennis coaches at the club are still awaiting the information as to when they will be able to return to the courts to teach lessons and clinics.
“Hopefully, by Nov. 4 the Lafayette tennis club courts will be available for members to play on and for our staff to teach again but the Lafayette tennis clubhouse was completely destroyed and will have to be demolished and rebuilt,” Schurig said.
Remaining optimistic, Gallaway is hopeful for re-opening of the tennis club in the near future.
“The silver lining of the whole thing is that we have the viewing clubhouse and the courts in perfect shape so as soon as we get things cleaned up and we demo the building then we will be back in tennis business for sure,” Gallaway said.
Although unexpected and devastating, both the coaches and Gallaway agree that the situation could have been worse should anyone have been injured during the fire.
“Had this particular power line been shut off as well, this would have never happened but who knows how many other fires were actually prevented from PG&E cutting off the power to most of the other surrounding areas,” Schurig said. “I’d rather focus on moving forward and rebuilding an even better Lafayette Tennis Club, I’m just grateful that no one was harmed during this horrible fire.”