NORTH NAPLES — A fire at Naples Bath and Tennis Club on Saturday engulfed and destroyed three condos in a battle that engaged dozens of firefighters for more than four hours.
No one was seriously injured.
Margot Rampendahl and her husband watched as flames consumed the first condo on the top floor of a three-story building, Unit C at 1860 Bald Eagle Drive in North Naples. Set to fly out Sunday to Germany where they spend half the year, the Rampendahls walked past their luggage, inside the front door, as emergency personnel evacuated the building.
“We were all packed. All our papers are there, passports, phone numbers, luggage, money, everything,” she said, shaking her head.
Like the other residents forced quickly out of their condos around 2 p.m. at the first whiffs of smoke, Rampendahl and her husband made it to an adjacent parking lot with little to nothing in hand.
“The police came. ‘Get out, get out.’ I was in my pajamas,” said Angela Duque, a first-floor resident. She was to have moved to a new home in Victoria Shores a day earlier, but a delay pushed it back a week. She walked out with only her cell phone, wallet and car keys.
Water to douse the flames from the south, east and west sides of the building poured into lower floors the longer the blaze raged. The flames appeared to be contained to only the third floor, however.
Seven people at the scene told the Daily News they were displaced because of the fire. One resident was taken to an area hospital as a precaution for smoke inhalation. Officials on site were unsure how the blaze began in an unoccupied apartment, which is owned by out-of-state residents, according to the Collier Property Appraiser’s website.
“It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been to a job this big,” said Jerry Sanford, spokesman for the North Naples Fire Control and Rescue District, which led efforts Saturday alongside units from the city of Naples and Golden Gate, with support from Collier EMS and the Collier County Sheriff’s Office.
About 40 firefighters worked in shifts from the ground, inside the building, and in cherry pickers to hit the blaze from several angles.
Sanford was reluctant Saturday to put a figure on the damages to the nine-unit building, part of a community of condos and houses just south of the intersection of Pine Ridge and Airport-Pulling roads.
“I don’t want to say the building is a total loss,” he said, “but (the damage) is extensive. It’s a very high estimate.”
The destroyed condos were valued at around $117,000 each, according to the property appraiser’s website.
The working theory is that the wood roof of the building, built in the late 1970s, according to residents, was instrumental in moving flames from one side of the structure to the other.
Not only did the condos have a wood frame and a wood-shingled roof, but the roof’s structure, with a 1-foot to 2-foot cockloft — the space between the apartments’ ceilings and the roof, a truncated version of an attic on a house — acted as a conduit for the fire, channeling flames from where they started in Unit C, through a second condo in the center of the building, and over to where the Rampendahls have lived for 20 years.
“It’s hard to get in there to stop it. It spreads in that open area,” Sanford explained of the cockloft.
With the combustible building contents, the scene was “like a lumber yard with all of those aspects adding to the fire load,” he said, adding that there were no fire sprinklers in the building.
Margaret Ann Ronayne, who lived on the first floor with a roommate and four dogs, was the first to alert dispatchers to the fire.
Her first thought when she smelled smoke and then the fire alarm began chirping: “I’ve got to get my dogs out.”
Wheelchair-bound from hip surgery, Ronayne wanted to open the door and let them run to safety. However, Collier deputies who arrived to get her out of the condo rescued the dogs as well, keeping them in the back of a patrol car until Domestic Animal Services arrived to care for them until Ronayne figures out a living situation.
For now, she and three other families are headed to hotels for a few nights in an effort organized by the Red Cross. Others chose to stay with family or friends.
A state fire marshal arrived on site as the fire came under control around 6:30 p.m.
According to Sanford, a report including details on the origin of the fire could come as early as next week.
UPDATE: Crews are cleaning up at the scene as of around 8 p.m.
NORTH NAPLES _ A fire in an apartment building at Naples Bath and Tennis Club has now spread across the top floor, fully engulfing two units and currently making its way through a third one as of around 5:15 p.m.
Seven people at the scene told the Daily News they are displaced because of the fire. One resident was taken to an area hospital as a precaution for smoke inhalation.
The fire, which was first reported to Collier emergency dispatchers at around 2 p.m., began in the C Unit building at 1860 Bald Eagle Drive. The community of homes and apartments is just south of the intersection of Pine Ridge and Airport-Pulling roads.
Four of the nine units in the building were occupied, according to residents and neighbors. However, no injuries were reported and all residents safely left the building before the fire spread, authorities said.
Around 40 firefighters from North Naples and the city of Naples fire departments, along with one truck from the Golden Gate fire department, are now entering the fourth hour of battling the blaze.
The apartment where the fire started was unoccupied. There is no word yet on what sparked the fire, according to North Naples fire spokesman Jerry Sanford.
The building, which residents said was built in the late 1970s, has a wood frame and a shingled roof.
Sanford said the roof’s structure, with a 1-foot to 2-foot cockloft — the space between the apartments’ ceilings and the roof, a truncated version of an attic on a house — acted as a conduit for the fire, channeling flames across the roof.
The American Red Cross is at the scene.
Residents aren’t expected to be able to return to their homes today.
There is significant water damage to the lower two floors. However, the fire doesn’t appear to have dipped below the top floor.
The building’s residents are being taken by the Red Cross to hotels if they choose to not stay elsewhere with friends or family members.
Firefighters are battling a fire at an apartment building at Naples Bath and Tennis Club off of Airport-Pulling Road.
The first call about the fire at 1860 Bald Eagle Drive came into Collier County emergency dispatchers after 2 p.m.
Two Naples Bath and Tennis buildings have been evacuated, according to emergency dispatchers in Collier County.
However, no one has yet been transported for injuries.
As many as 15 to 20 people from nine apartments left safely. The fire initially was located in the roof but is spreading downward.
Many of the units are owned by seasonal residents, so they were vacant, authorities said.
Several trucks and multiple fire departments have responded to the scene. North Naples fire department has 25 firefighters on the scene.
Return to naplesnews.com later today for more on this developing story