This Sunday a huge fire ripped through an incredible new climbing gym, destroying the building and others surrounding it. The wall has only been open for a year after being delayed by COVID lockdowns.
The alarm was raised when a couple horse-riding nearby saw smoke coming from the roof of the building and called emergency services at 3:38 pm. They then got in contact with the gym who immediately evacuated everyone safely – having not noticed any smoke or fire inside.
Within the hour the entire building had been engulfed. As you can see from the pictures it’s unlikely that any area will be salvaged as the building has collapsed in on itself. The five-storey car park next door was also lost in the fire, as were other offices housed in the new building.
It took fire services until 6:30 that evening to put out the main fire, though there was still smoke emerging that could be smelt for miles around. The entire structure of the building had collapsed due to fire damage to the steel and concrete structure. It’s reported that over 100 firefighters and volunteers were involved, with over 30 fire trucks and ambulances.
The gym in Meyrin-Satigny, near Geneva in Switzerland, was operated by grimper.ch, and was only opened a year ago in April 2021. It was a stunning, modern climbing gym with incredible lines built by Entre-prises, and a great range of holds and volumes set by professionals. It had over 4,500 square meters of wall space. This is a massive shame for the company and the local area.
It was outfitted with a massive lead area of sculptured walls up to 16 meters high. One of the most stunning features is a fully-equipped outdoor wall with 25 lead lines. It also featured lots of indoor top ropes, auto-belays, a multi-level bouldering area, plus a café and working space.
What Caused The Fire?
As the fire started on the roof, the likely cause is from something to do with the solar panels mounted there. According to reports, small bits of flaming debris fell onto the mats, which then caught alight and spread the fire into the main building.
Inside, the gym has matting under all of its climbs – not just the bouldering section. The mat covers and mats themselves are made of a few fabrics like polyurethane which are plastics derived from oil. These burn rapidly and produce toxic smoke according to OSHA. These are also the most likely the same mats that are used in your gym
The smoke was seen from planes taking off and approaching the nearby airport in Geneva. It’s yet to be seen if the fumes could affect the health of nearby residents.
Climbing gyms are pretty hard to fireproof as the walls are made of plywood that stretches from floor to ceiling. Rooms are often fairly open and boulder mats and the “crumb” style of impact-absorbing flooring is a similar, oil-based product that is toxic if burnt.
Coupled with large amounts of dust accumulating in hard-to-reach areas, there are some significant hazards lurking in climbing gyms. Luckily this type of news is fairly rare and climbing gyms aren’t burning down in numbers.