Community unites to help R&R pier staff

In the wake of the Sept. 30 electrical fire at the Rod & Reel Pier in Anna Maria, island churches have stepped up to offer aid and assistance to the 30 pier employees who may be without jobs for several months.

The Rev. Gary Batey of Roser Memorial Community Church said All Island Denominations, an organization of island churches, has come forward to help the pier staff with food and, if needed, economic aid and other assistance.

Batey said all island churches — Roser, CrossPointe Fellowship, Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Episcopal Church of the Annunciation, Harvey Memorial Community Church and St. Bernard Catholic Church — are participating in the effort.

“Each employee will have their specific needs addressed,” Batey said. “We’ll go case by case.”

He said pier employees won’t receive cash donations, but AID will help with food purchases and other essentials, FP&L payments, assistance with rent and other needs.

Batey also said AID is accepting donations from the public in any form, be it food, clothing or cash. He said donations to help the pier staff will be pooled by AID volunteers.

One problem, according to Rod & Reel Pier manager Dave Cochran, is the uncertainty as to how long repairs may take and the extent of damages. As of Oct. 7, insurance adjusters had only begun their evaluations, while WMFR had completed its investigation.

Batey said AID would continue assistance for pier staff as long as possible.

Anyone seeking assistance or offering a donation can call 941-725-2433, Batey at 941-778-0414 or contact the office of another AID church.

Other island organizations are joining with AID.

The Anna Maria Island Privateers voted last week to offer labor to help rebuild the pier and to help raise donations for the AID pier fund.

Privateer Roger “Hoodat” Murphree said the nonprofit has members who are carpenters, construction workers and flooring experts and they’re “ready and eager” to pitch in assistance where needed.

Cochran said the positive response to the disaster has been overwhelming and he and the staff appreciate the concern and help.


Quick action by MCSO, WMFR to pier fire praised

West Manatee Fire Rescue Inspector Keith Miller said fast thinking by a Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputy and quick response from WMFR at the Rod & Reel Pier on the morning of Sept. 30 may have kept an electrical fire from being worse than it was.

MCSO Sgt. Paul Davis said Deputy Gary Sellitto was on routine patrol at the Rod & Reel Pier around 8:30 a.m. when he smelled smoke, but found nothing burning in the two kitchens and no evidence of a fire.

Sellitto searched the premises, saw large amounts of smoke coming from the walls and began asking kitchen staff if they smelled smoke or if any food was burning.

Miller said the fire call was received at 8:33 a.m. and the first fire unit was on the scene at 8:40 a.m.

Other units arrived soon after, including one unit from the Longboat Key Fire Department and a Manatee County Emergency Medical Services vehicle. Cedar Hammock Fire District also responded.

Miller said the fire appeared to be between the first and second floor inside the paneling, and behind the kitchen wall. There was extensive smoke, he said, but few flames. Firefighters had to cut through the walls leading to the kitchen and the panels separating the two floors to reach the source of the smoke.

“We had to tear out walls around the kitchen to reach the fire. It was the only way we could find the source,” he said.

Miller said the fire appeared to have been electrical in nature because of the large amount of smoke and few flames.

The fire was brought under control by 9:37 a.m.

Firefighters used a large quantity of water to control the incident and the result is some water damage to the interior along with some holes in the walls and roof, Rod & Reel Pier manager Dave Cochran said.

“We’re going to work as quickly as possible to reopen,” he said. “A lot depends on how fast the insurance adjusters can get things moving. I have no idea of how much damage there is, but there’s a lot inside.”

Miller said he wasn’t an expert in rebuilding or remodeling, but his unofficial estimate was several months of repairs are probably needed at the pier. He said fire adjusters will have a better estimate once they inspect the scene.


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