St. Petersburg Times

Cause of fire that destroyed boat unknown
The blaze late Sunday also delayed the Kiwanis Mease Midnight Run, a popular race.
By ALEX LEARY, Times Staff Writer
Published July 5, 2005

DUNEDIN - Investigators are trying to determine the cause of a fire that destroyed a 34-foot boat late Sunday at Marker 1 Marina, delaying the start of a popular race.

There was talk of a flare being thrown onto the boat or fireworks hitting it, but Pinellas County Sheriff's Office spokesman Mac McMullen said nothing had been confirmed.

Arson investigators were not called, McMullen said Monday. "I don't think it can be categorized as suspicious."

The fire caused about $95,000 in damage to the 34-foot Regal motorboat Great White .

Its owner, Jim Akins of Palm Harbor, could not be reached for comment.

A second boat had minor damage on its fiberglass hull, officials said.

Dunedin fire crews arrived at the marina, 343 Causeway Blvd., at 11:06 p.m. and contained the blaze by 11:14. Four engines and a ladder truck responded, as did a sheriff's marine unit.

No one was injured.

"We don't get a lot of boat fires," said Dunedin fire district Chief William Barrs, adding it was only the third he could remember in the past 13 years.

As firefighters battled on the water, smoke drifted past runners warming up for a 5K race that kicks off the Kiwanis Mease Midnight Run over the Dunedin Causeway.

The first race was to begin at 11:15 p.m. but did not start until 11:31 because the causeway was closed to nonemergency traffic. That led subsequent races to be delayed.

Race director Henry Hardin said the 1,500 participants were understanding.

"There wasn't a lot of concern," he said. "Everything ran smooth after that."

[Last modified July 5, 2005, 01:33:21]