Fire nearly destroyed a luxury Keys resort in May. This week it was ruled accidental

A fire that nearly destroyed the Bungalows Key Largo resort in May, just five months after it opened, has been ruled accidental by state investigators, according to a report released this week.

The early morning May 5 blaze took out the two-story building that housed the resort’s spa, pool, two restaurants and bar. The fire was so strong that the thatch, tiki-style roof continued to smolder almost two days after firefighters knocked down the flames.

The state Bureau of Fire, Arson and Explosives Investigations finished its probe into the fire in late October, but did not release its findings until this week, about a month after the resort that fronts on Florida Bay reopened to the public.

The report concludes that the fire started in a food concessions trailer that was attached to the main building by electrical and propane gas lines. Investigators discovered that a fitting that connected the propane tank to the trailer was cracked and leaking gas.

The gas was ignited by electricity from a refrigerator/freezer with a bottom-mounted compressor system, according to the report.

“This fire continued to be fueled by the propane system and eventually involved the attached structure,” the report states.

Key Largo Volunteer Fire Department firefighters spray a hose on the smoldering facade of Bungalows Key Largo, a resort that caught fire May 5, 2019. The fire was so strong that the tiki-style roof continued to smoulder almost two days after firefighters knocked down the flames.
Key Largo Volunteer Fire Department firefighters spray a hose on the smoldering facade of Bungalows Key Largo, a resort that caught fire May 5, 2019. The fire was so strong that the tiki-style roof continued to smoulder almost two days after firefighters knocked down the flames.

Investigators say the fire caused an estimated $2.6 million in damage at the adults-only resort, which covers 12 acres.

No one was injured in the blaze, which was first discovered around 4:30 a.m., likely because the 135 guest rooms are located away from the main building, which was empty.

A hotel guest interviewed by investigators said his wife told him there was a “glow” coming from the restaurant area. The man, David Studt, told investigators the concession trailer was engulfed in flames. He entered the main building and did not see anyone on either floor.

Smoke continues to pour out from the main building at Bungalows Key Largo on May 6, 2019, more than 24 hours after the fire started. A new report says the cause of the fire was accidental.
Smoke continues to pour out from the main building at Bungalows Key Largo on May 6, 2019, more than 24 hours after the fire started. A new report says the cause of the fire was accidental.

Studt pulled two alarms, then tried putting out the spreading flames with a hand-held extinguisher, but the fire quickly grew out of control, according to the report.

Witnesses at the time said once staff became aware of the fire, they quickly evacuated all guests, and firefighters were able to isolate the fire to the main building.

The public relations firm representing the Bungalows’ owner, Cheeca Holdings, LLC, of Jackson, Wyoming, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the fire investigators’ report.

Bungalows Key Largo officially reopened in December.

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