Fire officials work to determine what caused fire at Naples Bath and Tennis Club

Residents pick up the pieces after Saturday afternoon fire ravages building

— Papers are waterlogged. Photographs are destroyed. The ceiling has partially crumbled.

Nearly everything in Angela Duque’s North Naples first-floor condominium is ruined, ravaged by a fire Saturday afternoon.

“Everything but the clothes,” Duque said Sunday afternoon.

Residents of a three-story, nine-unit building picked up the pieces Sunday at a Naples Bath and Tennis Club condominium structure, where fire charred the top floor and smoke and water damaged the rest of the building. About a half-dozen firefighters and state fire marshal officials combed through the remains Sunday on the 1800 block of Bald Eagle Drive, searching for the cause of the blaze that displaced several residents and took more than four hours to control.

A cause likely won’t be known until later this week at the earliest, but the fire appeared to start on the top floor of the three-story, nine-unit building.

“The fire marshals have various samples that they’ve taken from floor No. 3 and they’ll send those for testing,” said North Naples Fire Department Deputy Chief Sal D’Angelo.

No one was seriously injured in Saturday’s fire. One person was hospitalized, but his or her identity and condition remained unknown Sunday afternoon.

The local chapter of the American Red Cross is helping displaced residents, and Duque said the organization offered her a free three-night hotel stay. Instead, Duque is bunking at the nearby home of her daughter, Susana Gutierrez, while figuring out the logistics of finding a new residence.

“It’s been pretty traumatic,” Gutierrez said. “They’re assuming they’ll take the building down because it’s all been ruined.”

The building’s future likely will be determined in the coming weeks.

Structural engineers and insurance officials are expected to be on-scene this week to decide whether the building will need to be bulldozed, D’Angelo said.

“I can’t say for sure yet that the building will be torn down,” D’Angelo said.

Some were expected to return Sunday to retrieve some items with help from fire officials and the unit’s homeowner’s association.

About half of the units were occupied at the time of the fire, with the others owned by snowbirds, said Carlyle Montanye, who lives in an adjacent building. He came outside Saturday afternoon to find the top of the building on fire.

“When I first saw it, it was just a little smoke and flame, but it must have been spreading along the roof because they were having a terrible time with it,” Montanye said. “The people coming out really looked devastated. One man looked like he was about to cry.”

Jay Wolff, a former homeowner’s association president at Naples Bath and Tennis Club, said he was “fairly certain” the building will be torn down. Built in the mid-1970s, the units didn’t have sprinklers, and the condos had a wood frame and wood-shingled roof.

“For a community like this, it’s big news,” Wolff said. “You can replace a building, though. You can’t replace a life.”

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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