TOM VAUGHT | SUN
Firefighters responded quickly to a fire at the
Rod and Reel Pier in Anna Maria on Monday morning.
ANNA MARIA – The Rod and Reel Pier restaurant caught fire Monday morning with smoke pouring out of the landmark wood building atop the pier with the same name. It took 22 firefighters more than an hour to extinguish the source of the smoke because it had spread into the wall, according to West Manatee Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Rich Losek.
“It was a quick knockdown but the fire spread to the walls,” he said.
The first fire alarm was called in around 8:30 a.m. and two pumpers and a ladder truck responded from West Manatee. A ladder truck from Longboat Key and a pumper from Cedar Hammock fire departments also responded.
A number of people were inside the restaurant having a leisurely breakfast on the water when smoke began pouring out of a wall, bringing to an abrupt end what had been an idyllic Monday morning.
“Somebody came up to us and said smoke is coming in and then the waitress came over and said, ‘I don’t want to alarm you, but you’ll have to leave,’” said Marie Marsh, from Marion, Ohio, who was eating breakfast. “We’ve been coming here for 34 years and it’s so sad. This is a historic part of the Island.”
Marsh and her family sat under a thatched roof in the back of the Rod and Reel Motel as firefighters hacked away at the roof and walls of the restaurant, trying to find the source of the black smoke that filled the air.
Nearby, waiter David Mariotti and waitress Richie Shank watched the firemen work. They were still wearing aprons from their morning shift.
“The smoke was downstairs at first, but it came upstairs and we decided to get everyone out,” Mariotti said.
Shank said it was sad to watch the smoke billow out of the building.
The source of the fire appeared to be elusive as firefighters used chainsaws and wore air tanks, digging into the building’s roof. Finally, the dark smoke turned white, indicating the fire was being extinguished.
Anna Maria resident John Fara had been fishing at the pier and later went up to eat breakfast.
“I smelled smoke and it smelled a little electrical,” he said. “That’s when someone called the fire department.”
Fara said he was sorry to see the fire hit the restaurant.
“I’ve been coming here for 50 years,” he said. “I used to be a volunteer fireman for the early fire department and I’m impressed with how professional they’ve become since I was there.”
Later in the day, workers were taking the perishables out of the restaurant while the fire investigator checked for clues as to how the fire started. A chain blocked off the entrance to the pier with a sign that read, “Closed. No trespass.”
There was no estimate immediately available on the extent of the damage or when the pier might reopen.