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image The Tooele Gun Club caught fire early Wednesday morning. However, John Miller, president of the gun club, and 35 volunteers rallied to restore power to the club on Saturday so the clay pigeon-throwing machines can be used.

May 7, 2013
Tooele Gun Club reacts quickly after fire damages

Despite having their building gutted by fire last week, Tooele Gun Club members clamored together to have business as usual just days later.

John Miller, president of the club, said despite the loss of the building, the club was determined not to miss more than one regular shoot.

“All we need is electricity for the [clay pigeon-throwing] machines,” he said.

True to his word, Miller and the rest of the club met Saturday as scheduled after 35 volunteers helped to restore power to the area.

“We really didn’t want to be down very long,” he said. “I was surprised that we got back up that quick; I was being pretty optimistic. But we’re back up on regular schedule.”

At 6:30 a.m. last Wednesday, a passing Tooele County Sheriff deputy noticed smoke coming from the metal-sided building, which overlooks Tooele Valley five miles east of Tooele City at the end of Smelter Road.

The fire destroyed the club’s interior, which was determined to be a total loss. Once the fire was detected, however, firefighters from the North Tooele County Fire District and Tooele City Fire Department quickly doused the flames.

Nevertheless, all that remained Wednesday was a burned metal husk. Tables and chairs, a small kitchen, and recently renovated bathrooms were gone.

Miller said an email was sent to club members asking for help to restore operations, which included tearing down most remnants of the building and restoring power.

“It was a tremendous amount for the day,” he said. “We also had some expert opinion in getting the electrical set up. We can run out of the back of a truck if we have to for a while.”

The club regularly meets Wednesday evenings and Saturday and Sunday mornings. Missing Wednesday evening was unavoidable, given the circumstances, Miller said, but that was all the club intends to miss even as they try to rebuild.

The response and rapid return back to some form of normal is characteristic of the organization, which has thrived on passion and heart since its inception in the 1950s, said Miller.

“It’s kind of a different organization. We’re not associated with any city or county,” he said. “It’s strictly a volunteer nonprofit. The only reason we do it is so ourselves and others who enjoy the sport have a place to shoot. Over the years those volunteers have been kind of the heart of the club. Everyone who’s interested and willing to pitch in, they pitch in their time and their skills, and that’s what’s keeping us going.”

Miller said the club is currently deciding whether to repair or replace the building, which served primarily as a gathering area for shooters to stay out of the elements, but acknowledged it would likely be the latter. Although he estimates damages at $100,000 to $150,000 for materials, furnishings and anticipated replacement costs, Miller said the club is looking to the future.

“We’re looking for something temporary right now but we’re also putting feelers out for folks who want to give us a bid on a new building,” he said. “We have a little money in the bank, so we’ll see what happens — whatever the timeframe and the cost allows.”

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