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Smoke still clearing in details around Marathon fire

Fire tears through the Vaca Key Marina in Marathon early Monday morning.
Fire tears through the Vaca Key Marina in Marathon early Monday morning. Keynoter

The fire is out but the smoke is still clearing in the aftermath of a major fire Monday in Marathon.

Where the fire originated at the Vaca Key Marina and how many workers are out of jobs have yet to be determined, according to Marathon Fire Rescue Chief John Johnson. He and Monroe County Fire Rescue Deputy Fire Marshal Craig Marston stood overlooking tons of still-smoldering concrete Tuesday morning at the bayside marina near mile marker 47.5.

“This concrete will smolder for days,” Johnson said.

He couldn’t say when the rubble will start to be cleared and Carlos and Lillian Berdeal, owners of the 1-acre property at 1300 Overseas Highway where several fishing businesses operate, could not be reached for comment. The couple lives in Miami.

Among the rubble: Three lobster boats, a two-story house, six propane-powered forklifts, 20,000 lobster traps and a few makeshift shacks in which there were stoves and mattresses. A woman who was living in the house was evacuated safely with her parrot, Johnson said. No one else was injured.

County spokeswoman Cammy Clark said the total damage will most likely be assessed at more than $1 million.

Although he and his father Simon Prieto lost 2,000 lobster traps in the fire, Ednan Prieto was in slightly better spirits Tuesday morning at the marina after telling the Keynoter Monday, “All I saw was fire” when he got to work at 4 a.m.

A GoFundMe account benefiting the Prietos and “all other businesses that suffered due to the fire” had raised $2,050 as of Tuesday afternoon but the campaign organizer, Margo Prieto, did not say how the funds will be split.

There is a second GoFundMe solely for Miami resident Fernando Diaz, who lost his boat and 4,000 lobster traps in the fire.

Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen's Association Executive Director Bill Kelly said he is working with state and federal officials to see if there is help in getting the businesses back up and running before the start of lobster season in August.

“Obviously there was widespread damage there and we still don’t know how many people have been affected,” Kelly said. “I’m in touch with those who are assessing the damage and finding out who had insurance and who didn’t. All these things still need to be assessed and we need an outline.”

Dawn Harris McGill of Marathon is doing the same thing to assess who will benefit from an upcoming fundraiser she started organizing Monday night. A date has not been set and she’s working through the details, she said.

“It’s still very early but I really want to help the people affected by this,” McGill said Tuesday. “We’re just getting started. It’s a community effort.”

Students from Marathon High School’s upcoming senior class will be bagging groceries at Publix, mile marker 50 oceanside, Saturday from 2 to 8 p.m. with donation buckets at each register for student Aron Prieto and his family. Volunteers can sign up by emailing michellefranck777@gmail.com.

Katie Atkins: 305-440-3219

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