Women's group takes Marriott fire in stride
By Jim Ash

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Saturday, April 30, 2005

A fire inside a patio wall forced an evacuation Friday of the Hutchinson Island Marriott, but true to their name, the Soroptimist International of Stuart didn't let that ruin their annual awards luncheon.

"Fortunately, the Marriott handled it really, really well," said Jeanette Mueller, co-chairwoman of the Martin County Women of Distinction Awards Luncheon and Silent Auction, held at the resort on Hutchinson Island, near the Stuart Causeway.

Some 350 luncheon guests walked from a second-story ballroom into a hallway that was acrid and hazy with smoke after the fire alarm sounded shortly after 2 p.m., Mueller said.

Snatching a bullhorn from her trunk that she uses for political events, Mueller rallied the guests by the pool and continued with the rest of the program.

"Actually, it turned out to be very enjoyable," she said.

The group is part of a professional women's organization that works to improve the community.

Martin District Fire Chief Jim Loffredo said the fire was quickly extinguished and there were no injuries. He estimated damage at less than $2,000. The cause was likely a cigarette, he said.

"We had just been discussing how to get more publicity," Mueller joked. "I don't know how we're going to top this next year."