Thursday, June 4, 2009

Fire destroys Galveston seawall condos

By Chris Paschenko
The Daily News

Published June 4, 2009
GALVESTON — At least 60 units of a Galveston resort were gutted Wednesday by fire, which was started accidentally by welding contractors who were renovating the complex damaged by Hurricane Ike, fire officials said.

Firefighters were called at 2:19 p.m. to Maravilla Resort Condominiums, 9520 Seawall Blvd., and found fire spreading between the second and third floor.

“It was the workers out there doing welding and cutting,” Fire Chief Mike Varela Sr. said of Fire Marshal Gilbert Robinson’s determination. The contractors had a city permit for renovations and were employing a fire watch, Varela said.

Galveston firefighter Gary Vasquez suffered from heat exhaustion and was taken by ground ambulance to Mainland Medical Center in Texas City and released, Varela said.

A medical crew treated some of the contractors at the scene, but they weren’t taken to a hospital, Varela said.

The blaze began in the rear of the complex, working its way toward the seawall side of the structure. About 120 firefighters, including those from Jamaica Beach, Santa Fe, Hitchcock, La Marque and Texas City were called to the island and helped evacuate about 30 or 40 people from the building. They also fought the blaze and manned fire stations here. There were no further injuries, Varela said.

Firefighters focused their attack at the center of the complex, where Varela said a fire break helped them control the blaze about 5:30 p.m.

Much of the upper units of the three-story complex were gutted, and many more sustained smoke and water damage, Varela said.

Lloyd W. Rinderer, an assistant city manager for Galveston, said he lost his condo of six years to the blaze. Rinderer, who is also treasurer of the condo’s homeowner’s association, said he would reside on his boat at The Galveston Yacht Club, just as he did not long after the storm.

“We were a month from completing Hurricane Ike repairs,” Rinderer said of the Sept. 13 storm’s damaging effects. “There were 164 units and there were about 10 people who were actually living there.”


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