Highbury Leisure Centre fire: 100 evacuated from newly-refurbished gym as 80 firefighters tackle blaze in roof

PUBLISHED: 13:38 25 September 2018 | UPDATED: 09:25 27 September 2018

The remains of the Highbury Leisure Centre roof this afternoon. Picture: Alan Davison

The remains of the Highbury Leisure Centre roof this afternoon. Picture: Alan Davison


A hundred people were evacuated from Highbury Leisure Centre as a fire “completely gutted” the roof of the newly refurbished building.

The blaze in Highbury Crescent saw Highbury and Islington station shut after smoke got into the Underground shaft. There were 12 fire engines and about 80 firefighters sent to the scene. The cause of the fire is not yet known.

The leisure centre will be closed until further notice, operator GLL/Better confirmed this afternoon, with memberships valid at other gyms run by the same firm.

The fire burned for two hours and 45 minutes but a huge plume of smoke was visible for hours more, and the brigade expects to be on the scene damping down the remains into the night.

A 38-year-old witness told the Gazette: “The roof is completely gutted and there are flames coming out of the top of the building.

“My sister works there but luckily she wasn’t on shift today. She said everyone got out of the building safely.”

The leisure centre was refurbished to the tune of £2.5million and reopened in February after an 18-month closure. As reported by the Gazette at the time, neighbours complained that the final design didn’t match what had been agreed at planning, and operator GLL/Better agreed to shoulder the cost of fixing it.

Highbury Leisure Centre's roof on fire.Highbury Leisure Centre's roof on fire.

Workers were seen finishing the roof as recently as this month, one neighbour told the Gazette.

A GLL spokesman said today: “Highbury Leisure Centre is currently closed while London Fire Brigade responds to an incident.

“Customers and staff were evacuated swiftly and safely. We await advice from the fire brigade on the cause of the fire.

Medics at the scene of the Highbury Leisure Centre fire. Picture: @LAS_HARTMedics at the scene of the Highbury Leisure Centre fire. Picture: @LAS_HART

“Updates on the re-opening of the centre will be posted on the centre’s website. Until then, Better members may use our alternative facilities in Islington or neighbouring boroughs.”

A London Fire Brigade spokesperson said: “Part of the roof of the single-storey building is alight.

“The Brigade was called at 12.03pm. Fire crews from Islington, Holloway, Stoke Newington, Paddington and surrounding fire stations are at the scene.

Highbury & Islington station was evacuated as smoke entered the ventilation shaft. Picture: @Blick_Oyinbo/TwitterHighbury & Islington station was evacuated as smoke entered the ventilation shaft. Picture: @Blick_Oyinbo/Twitter

“The cause of the fire is not known at this stage.”

People with belongings still at the gym will be told when it is safe to return and collect them, GLL added.

Did you see what happened? Call Lucas at the Gazette on 020 7433 0121.

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