PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — The St. Andrews Bay Yacht Club has been a staple of Panama City since 1933.
Club members and residents say this building was an iconic piece of history.
“The community loves this club. It’s the place we all gather,” said St. Andrews Bay Yacht Club Commodore Will Cramer.
However, earlier Sunday morning that all changed.
“I woke up this morning around 4:00 and my bedroom lit up and I couldn’t figure it out. And I heard fire trucks and everything and just wanted to know what’s going on. So, I went outside and saw the entire yacht club engulfed in flames,” said Resident Jeffrey Kinder.
The roof of the club completely collapsed and officials say the building is a loss.
Panama City Fire Department and Bay County Fire Rescue were giving special attention to an oak tree behind the club that survived Hurricane Michael.
“They have been through so much and they had just rebuilt after the storm and all of that. And they’re celebrating their 90th anniversary and it was so beautiful and so well done,” said Fort Walton Yacht Club Member Lynne Reynolds.
“Absolutely beautiful evening. And yeah, and just a disaster,” said Fort Walton Yacht Club Member Tom Reynolds.
Many people have grown up with the yacht club and are upset to see it go.
“90 years of this place and gone in one hour,” said St. Andrews Bay Yacht Club employee Christine Eglinton.
“It’s just really a sad thing for the community here,” Kinder said.
The yacht club’s commodore also reminisced on his time growing up in the area.
“I’ve been coming here since I was a baby. We all ran kind of wild through the yard. Our kids run wild through the yard now. We’ve had a long history of neighborhood family memories at the club,” Cramer said.
Cramer says he’s hopeful for the future of the club.
“The future is going to be good. We have good insurance, fortunately. So, we’ll rebuild. It’s a 90-year-old building, so we’ve kind of worked around that for the last 90 years. We’ll have an opportunity to do some things that we’ve always wanted to do,” Cramer said.
The St. Andrews Bay Yacht Club was empty during the fire and no one was injured.
“The call came in by a bystander that was on their way home. The call came in at approximately 3:44 a.m. at 3:45 a.m., our police were notified of the working structure fire here at 218, Bunkers Cove Road. Units were en route at 3:47 a.m. The first unit arrived on scene at 3:50 a.m. so a very short period of time. That first unit, when they arrived on scene, they found heavy fire and smoke conditions on the right side of the building. They initially began their initial fire attack on that and the fire just continued to progress as we went through the night. The bulk of the fire is out. There are several areas that we just can’t get into because of the safety of our personnel. We can’t enter the structure anymore because of the extent of the damage. So what you’re really seeing is just the remnants of smaller fires and deep piles that we just can’t get to quite yet. This is a large facility. It’s old. It was not alarm monitored, it’s not sprinklered. So there was no notification system and it was just very fortunate that somebody was passing by today. So do the time and the extent of fire grace and the time it had before we were notified. It just made it very, very difficult to get ahead of this fire and to keep it contained,” said Panama City Fire Department Fire Chief Dave Collier.
This is an ongoing investigation.
The previous version of this story is below:
PANAMA CITY, Fla. One of the most historic locations in Panama City was destroyed Sunday morning in a fire.
Firefighters battled a blaze at the St. Andrew Bay Yacht Club for several hours beginning at about 4 a.m. They were still on the scene at 9 a.m. and said they planned to be there all day knocking down hot spots and making sure the fire did not flare back up or spread.
No one was inside at the time of the fire and the cause is unknown.
This is a developing story and we will have more information as it becomes available.