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Damage from early Monday fire in Marathon estimated around $1 million; boats, house and lobster traps destroyed

A fire rages at a Marathon marina early Monday morning.
A fire rages at a Marathon marina early Monday morning.

A fire at the Vaca Key Marina near mile marker 47.5 bayside shut down U.S. 1 early Monday and caused the loss of a house, three boats and thousands of lobster traps.

There were no injuries in the Marathon fire that started around 2:30 a.m and burned for several hours. There were still flames rising out of piles of charred lobster traps at 10 a.m.

Monroe County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Deputy Becky Herrin said fire hoses blocked U.S.1 and the road reopened to traffic before 8 a.m.

The call came in as a boat fire but when firefighters arrived, they found a house burning along with an acre lot filled with wooden lobster traps, said Monroe County spokeswoman Cammy Clark. Marathon Fire Rescue Chief John Johnson said two county fire crews worked with Marathon firefighters to put out the blaze, which was mostly put out by 5:30. He said the cause of the fire was unknown.

“It looks like it started somewhere on the east side of the marina, possibly in a vessel. It spread rapidly and got into the traps and the structure,” he said. “We have the state and county fire marshals making a determination as to how it started.”

“All I saw was fire. It was really bad,” said Ednan Prieto, who got to work at the marina around 4 a.m.

Even though he and his father Simon Prieto lost 2,000 lobster traps in the fire, they felt lucky to not have lost their fishing boat, Estrella.

Fernando Diaz wasn’t so lucky. The Miami resident has had a fishing business at the marina for more than three decades and lost his vessel, Teresita, to the fire along with 4,000 lobster traps. Holding a buoy, he said it was the only thing of his left intact among the rubble.

“We’re devastated,” said his wife, Teresa. The two got the call in Miami around 2:30 a.m. and drove to Marathon.

Deputies Seth Hopp and Orey Swilley moved about 10 boats and stacks of lobster traps out of the fire’s path, Herrin said.

Carlos Seafood owners, who operate the marin,a could not be reached for comment.

Clark said the fire also destroyed six propane-powered forklifts and tools as well. With the 37- to 47-foot lobster boats valued at about $150,000 to $300,000 and traps valued at $35 to $40 each, the total damage will likely be more than $1 million, she said.

Katie Atkins: 305-440-3219