Fire Guts Beach-Club Pavilion in Florida

Fire at the exclusive Harbor Beach Surf Club gutted a beachside pavilion in Fort Lauderdale early Monday.

One firefighter was injured when he fell after he lost his footing while pulling a hose off a firetruck.

Officials said the building, at 1460 S. Ocean Dr., was left with more than $200,000 in damage. Half of the building is still up, but what's left is so heavily damaged that it is a total loss, said Fort Lauderdale Fire-Rescue Division Chief Chris Weir.

Investigators were looking into the possibility that the fire was started by coals that were not dead when they were left in a trash can after a barbecue, Weir said.

Firefighters received a call from the building's fire alarm at 1:23 a.m. and arrived four minutes later, according to Fort Lauderdale Fire-Rescue Assistant Chief Stephen McInerny. The pavilion was engulfed in flames.

McInerny said 21 firefighters fought the blaze. It took more than 30 minutes to bring the fire under control and hours more to extinguish it completely.

Getting water to the fire was difficult because the building was on the beach, 800 feet from the street and hydrants, Weir said. Hoses were dragged across a wooden bridge that led to the recreation area, which is surrounded by trees and brush. Because it was a pavilion, there were no sprinklers, Weir said.

The pavilion, which includes a storage area and restrooms as well as picnic tables and barbecue pits, is part of a recreation area that can be reached only by people who have a pass card to enter through a gate, McInerny said.

Driver-engineer Dale Zimmerman, 46, was taken to Broward General Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale after he fell about 10 feet while removing a hose from one of the trucks. He was treated at the hospital for injuries to his head, elbow and back and then released, McInerny said.

Monday's fire was not the first at the club. In 1991, another early morning blaze destroyed the pavilion. Investigators said that fire was suspicious because they found an empty gasoline can in the area.

McInerny said investigators took samples on Monday to determine whether an accelerant such as gasoline was present.

Distributed by the Associated Press