Massive fire tears through resort in Florida Keys

All-inclusive adults-only property opened just a few months ago

KEY LARGO, Fla. – A fire broke out at a Key Largo resort early Sunday, causing extensive damage to the hotel, which opened only a few months ago, authorities said.

Officials said the fire started around 5 a.m. at the Bungalows Key Largo in the 99000 block of the Overseas Highway. It took several hours for fire crews to put out hot spots on multiple structures.

The Bungalows, which opened in December, made national headlines as the first all-inclusive, adults-only resorts in the Florida Keys. The resort was featured in a number of publications, including People magazine and the New York Post. A two-night stay cost around $2,000.

Joe Renta, a sous chef who works Fish Tales, one of the resort’s restaurants, heard the fire started in a food truck, but so far investigators have not confirmed that.



"One of my line cooks was there trying to grab people out with the golf cart, getting people to safety. That was really great and courageous of him to do that," Renta said.

No one was hurt in the blaze.

"I feel devastated. You know, we create great, great food there. You know, it’s a great place for people to be there. And I just want to see what happened myself," Renta  said.

See more photos from the Bungalows Key Largo fire ]

The luxury resort features 135 private bungalows across a sprawling 12 acres of waterfront property, which also includes several pools, jacuzzis, three restaurants and a tiki bar.

The property is so large and the bungalows so are spread out that some guests didn't find out about the fire until hours later when the resort was evacuated.

"We got a call at 7 o'clock this morning saying, we got to leave the resort and there was a fire in the resort, and we just left," said Tom Nadler, a guest at the resort.

Witnesses say the clubhouse, containing a restaurant and pool, was badly damaged, though the bungalows appear to have been spared.

“It's scary. The place just got built and it’s really nice, and we’ve all welcomed it to our little Rock Harbor up here, the Rock Harbor community," said Steven Miller who lives nearby and witnessed the aftermath. "Now I guess it’s going to be shut down for a while before it's rebuilt."

Mark Raffles, who lives next door to the resort, said his neighbor's dog, Murphy, woke him up as the fire raged.

"I saw people on the dock, and I opened my side door over here and saw this huge plume of smoke from next door," Raffles said.

Raffles said he feels the Bungalows' guests.

"It's kinda tough, you know. That’s a lot of people misplaced because they paid to be there and now they can’t stay there anymore," Raffles said.



About the Authors:

Janine Stanwood joined Local 10 News in February 2004 as an assignment editor. She is now a general assignment reporter. Before moving to South Florida from her Washington home, Janine was the senior legislative correspondent for a United States senator on Capitol Hill.