Liz and Bob Lang of 5801 Flotilla Drive, Holmes Beach, escaped injury June 11, when a fire on their 24-foot boat docked at their seawall caused two explosions and an estimated $200,000 in damage to the vessel and boathouse.
The flames were extinguished before the house was on fire, Liz Lang said, but the blaze did some damage to a fence and the roof of the house.
Lang said she and husband Bob were in their home office around 10:45 a.m. when someone rang their doorbell and told them their house was on fire.
Liz Lang could not see the fire from the office where she was working, and the boat dock is about 30 feet from the back of the house. But she saw flames and first thought were coming from a neighbor’s house, she said.
She immediately called 911 and began to give the address when, she said, she believes she heard two explosions, and realized the fire was at their boathouse.
“I have to admit, I panicked a little bit because Bob had a heart attack Friday and had just returned from the hospital. Everything was happening so fast. I’m not sure if the explosions were during the call or just after I called. I think it was during the call,” she said.
Her first thought was to ensure Bob was safe and to get out of the house.
As they went outside, they saw the fire raging, and Steve and Dana Garavuso, vacationers from Ohio.
Dana Garavuso is a nurse, while Steve Garavuso is a retired lieutenant from the Pataskala, Ohio, police department. They checked to make sure the Langs were OK, but Dana Garavuso eventually convinced Bob Lang to get checked in the waiting ambulance.
“We are used to being first responders, my husband more than me,” Dana Garavuso said. When they saw the flames and smoke, their first impulse was for the safety of anyone inside, she said.
After telling the Langs about the fire, the Garavusos ran to neighboring houses to warn them of the blaze.
Liz Lang made a quick return to the house to see if flames were inside the structure. When she came outside, she became worried when she could not see Bob.
“After his heart attack, I was concerned,” she said, but he was moving their recreational vehicle from the driveway and the blaze.
Dana Garavuso said the boat “had just exploded when we got there.” She estimated the first fire truck arrived about seven to 10 minutes later, but Liz Lang said it was only about 2-3 minutes after she called 911 before the first West Manatee Fire Rescue truck reached the house.
“They were very quick. They said they had been in south Holmes Beach near the hardware store when they got the call,” Liz Lang said.
The boathouse was fully engulfed in flames on WMFR’s arrival, but firefighters extinguished the blaze before it spread to the house structure, she added.
WMFR’s Station No. 1 is on Marina Drive about 300 yards from the Langs house, but apparently there was no fire truck at the station to answer the call.
WMFR public information officer Tom Sousa said the first 911 call to Station No. 1 came at 10:43:33 a.m. The first fire engine arrived at 10:47 a.m., Sousa said.
WMFR Chief Andy Price confirmed the fire truck was at Ace Hardware and firefighters were answering a call inside the building on East Bay Drive in Holmes Beach when the call came to respond to Flotilla Drive.
The time from the first call to the arrival of WMFR firefighters at the burning boathouse was about 3 minutes, 30 seconds.
Three fire engines and 17 firefighters responded, Sousa said, in addition to EMS personnel. The blaze was almost under control immediately after firefighters began putting water on the fire, and the fire was contained and out by 11:15 a.m., according to the report.
Sousa said a press release would be issued shortly regarding the fire, but it’s up to fire investigators to release any cause or suspected cause of the fire.
WMFR deputy fire marshal Kurt Lathrop is investigating the cause of the fire. The boat was taken to Bradenton Beach Marina June 12 for inspection by insurance adjusters.
“Right now, I can’t tell you how long the investigation will last or even guess at the cause,” Lathrop said. He is preparing the first report of the incident.
“A general, ballpark estimate of the damage is about $200,000, but it could vary a lot from that figure,” he said. He declined to speculate on any cause for the fire.
The boathouse contained an upstairs apartment that Liz Lang used as an art studio. The boat was a 24-foot Grady-White with a Yamaha outboard engine.
“We can still live in a portion of the house. I don’t know how long it will take to get that smell out,” she said.
Insurance adjusters told her there are companies that specialize in removing the smell of smoke from a house and one will be contacted.
“Thankfully, we’re OK, and Bob is fine,” Liz Lang said. “The boat, boathouse and paintings are just things. They can be replaced.”