PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — A Panama City Beach landmark caught fire Wednesday afternoon.
Fire crews responded to the blaze at the Aquavista Condominiums on Front Beach Road and Highway 79.
Around 12:30 p.m., Panama City Beach Fire Rescue got a call about a fire alarm going off at the Aquavista Condominiums.
“We were cleaning a unit, which was 304W and we just thought it was another random drill so we didn’t take it too seriously,” cleaner and witness Michael Vasquez said.
While firefighters were en route, the call was upgraded to a commercial structure fire.
“Crews arrived on scene with smoke showing from the top of the west end elevator shaft, so that prompted a full complement response of our whole shift as well as Bay County,” Panama City Beach Fire Rescue Chief Ray Morgan said.
Vasquez said when he saw the smoke, he knew something was wrong.
“I had to come out and grab one of my brooms and then from there noticed a big cloud of smoke coming off on the sixth floor and it wasn’t normal smoke, it was dark so a lot of the people were asked to evacuate the building so that’s what we did,” Vasquez said.
He then watched from across the street as firefighters battled the blaze.
The almost 40-year-old Aquavista has been undergoing renovations and firefighters took advantage of construction equipment to fight the fire.
“We made an aggressive attack, opened up the roof, the top of the elevator shaft, and made access,” Morgan said. “It looks like the fire is between a car and the exterior of the elevator. This is one of the few elevator shafts that’s encased in plywood from the early days of construction so it’s challenging to get access to but crews have located the fire right around the fifth floor and are making an attack.”
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.