'Radiant heat' caused fire at Rod & Reel in Anna Maria


ANNA MARIA -- The West Manatee Fire & Rescue District Fire Prevention Bureau has determined the cause of the fire that has temporarily closed the iconic Rod & Reel Restaurant and Pier in Anna Maria as "radiant heat over time."

The fire inflicted an estimated $100,000 in damage.

Inspector Keith Miller said in a press release Tuesday that West Manatee fire investigators have determined the 8:33 a.m. one-alarm blaze Sept. 30 at the wood-framed restaurant at 875 North Shore Drive was accidental and the result of radiant heat over time.

Interviews, plus an examination of the evidence, led to the fire's origin determination. Damages are expected to take at least two months to repair.

Nothing indicated malicious intent or negligence in connection with the fire, which originated on the south side of the structure on the second floor inside the wall protecting the fryers, according to the report.

The cause was radiant heating of the wall (exothermic decomposition), continuing over a long period of time in a confined space, which led to slow oxidation of a combustible material. At this point, spontaneous ignition took place, according to the report.

The fire's unique circumstances did not release enough heat to activate the pier's fire alarm or suppression system, Miller reported.

The fire at the restaurant on North Shore Drive was controlled by one West Manatee Fire Rescue fire truck, three engines and one battalion under Battalion Chief Rick Losek.

The eatery had opened for breakfast at 8 a.m. Monday and was already packed with customers and fishermen on the pier when smoke indicated a fire in the walls.

Before firefighters arrived, Manatee County Sheriff's Office Deputy Gary Sellitto, already patrolling at the restaurant, cleared the restaurant.

The historic Rod & Reel Pier was built in 1947, as basically a bunch of boards strung together jutting out over Tampa Bay with a quaint bar, bait shop and restaurant at the tip.

The 300-foot pier is said to be one of only several privately owned piers in Florida.

The owner of the Rod & Reel Pier lives in Germany. The facility is run daily by Dave Cochran. The restaurant staff at the time of the fire included three cooks, two prep workers and two servers, Cochran said.

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