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Early-Morning Fire Demolishes House in Flagler Beach, 2nd Blaze in 2 Days in the City

| June 5, 2016

flagler beach fire south daytona avenue

The fire at 1539 South Daytona Avenue was centered in the middle of the house, and left little in its way. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Rick Belhumeur, the Flagler Beach city commissioner, had sold Leonard Fries the boat that sat in front of Fries’s now-demolished house on South Daytona Avenue a while back. The boat, almost as old as the house, was spared. The 63-year-old house, which burned overnight, starting at 3 a.m and into dawn, is a total loss. Belhumeur surveyed the scene on a couple of occasions this morning. When he texted Fries to inquire about him, Fries, the owner of Lenny’s New York Pizza on South Nova Road in Ormond Beach, texted back: No insurance. I’m screwed. All my money was in the house.”

It was one of two fires Flagler Beach firefighters battled this weekend. The first took place Friday afternoon at the north end of town, at the hulking three-story, salmon-colored structure at the corner of 9th Street and North Oceanshore Boulevard (see a video here). Authorities said an electrical panel at the back end of the structure caught fire, burning parts of a copse of palm trees there and penetrating only partially into the structure, though firefighters had to pierce the wall in a few places to ensure that the fire wasn’t spreading. Much of the rest of the 5,000-square-foot building, built 30 years ago, looks intact. No one was injured.

For Fries’s house, it’s a different story.

“We were on a call on A1A right before it,” the Flagler Beach Fire Department’s Lt. David Kennedy, who took command of the house fire scene, said, referring to his crew at about 3 a.m. this morning. “and we were driving back to the station on A1A. We smelled a lot of smoke, we drove through heavy smoke. We turned around on 12th or 13th and came up Central, and when we got to about Central and 14th is when we got paged out. So we were just two blocks away. When we pulled up there was heavy fire right here.” The firefighters were paged at 3:04 a.m. (When Kennedy was recounting the night’s work this morning, he had been on duty about 27 hours.)

north fire

Only the back of the three-story house on Oceanshore Boulevard and North 9th Street was damaged by an electrical fire Saturday. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

He pointed to the central area of the one-level house, what would have been the living room, flanked on the south side of the house by a garage and on the other by what appeared as a later addition to the house. Property records show only a deck and a brick patio added in 2012, with the rest all built in 1953.

When firefighters arrived at the scene, a neighbor told them that he believed the house was occupied. It wasn’t, but the firefighters’ initial moments were carried out on the assumption that residents were still inside. When Kennedy got to the back of the house, the back door was melted, and his reading on the thermal imagining camera read over 800 degrees in the central room. “So when I came back around, I had the first unit just start hitting the fire from the outside here and had Engine 92 do a VES, a vent-entered search of the bedrooms along the side there, because at this time we were going with the [assumption] that there’s people in here.”

Once the search was conducted, the neighbor told the firefighters he’d just been on the phone with the homeowner, who was out of town.

The fire had spread throughout the attic, and within a couple of minutes of the firefighters arriving at the scene, it had “vented” through the roof, “meaning it burned a hole—it had been burning for a good while—and it burned a hole in the roof,” Kennedy said. “Once it does that, it just pulls that oxygen and it just goes quicker.”

flagler beach fire department

Flagler Beach firefighter Dusty Snyder checks for flare-ups in late morning. Click on the image for larger view.
(© FlaglerLive)

Firefighters then went into a defensive posture, pulling up the aerial with the department’s new “quint” firetruck and drenching the house from above and with hand-lines.

The state fire marshal was called in.  She couldn’t determine a cause, but so far nothing suspicious was detected. The fire marshal and Kennedy agreed that the fire had likely started in the living room ceiling. After breaking the window, it got oxygen to feed it, then sent it more quickly spreading through the ceiling. The ceiling formation was made of a “re-roof,” making it more difficult for firefighters to penetrate and fight fires.

None of the neighbors were threatened. There was a helpful wind from the south, opposite the property at the south end of the burning house. Not even the old, wooden fence separating the two properties got too hot during the fire. None of the neighbors, there or across the street, had to be evacuated. But Kennedy said the homeowner was lucky not to have been home when the fire started.

The fire truck crews were at the scene until around 7 p.m., including Flagler Beach’s Ladder 11 Flagler County’s Engine 92 and Rescue 11 and 91, Palm Coast’s Engine 25, plus the county’s Battalion 91, Engine 16 and Flagler Beach volunteer firefighters. The Flagler Beach crew cleared the scene at 9 a.m. The crew returned two hours later to ensure that the fire was out. No one was injured.

flagler beach quint firetruck

Flagler Beach’s new quint fire truck was on the job. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Initially, however, Belhumeur said cops helped firefighters hook up their lines, as the Flagler Beach firefighters were short-handed. “It would help if we had another person on the truck,” Kennedy said, nudging Belhumeur, who was at the scene this morning.

“I’ve already talked to Larry,” Belhumeur responded, referring to Larry Newsome, the city manager, though Belhumeur himself is not keen on adding firefighters. He was not a commissioner during the long controversy surrounding the acquisition of the quint fire truck. But he had opposed that acquisition.

Kennedy was with one other firefighter when he arrived at the scene. “To give you the honest truth in a situation like this is, I have to get off the truck, do my 360”—that is, a complete walk-around evaluation of the burning structure—“and then we have to pull the line, he’s got to be pumping, it’s really impossible with two people,”  he said.

In a brief interview later, Belhumeur said: “Obviously they’re going to be asking for more people. Larry was hinting that way—well they’ve got this new fire truck, now they want more people. He’s listening to them, at least. My position hasn’t changed. I think they should have negotiated with the county. The firefighters have better pay, better benefits.”

The fire department would still in the heart of Flagler Beach, Belhumeur said, and according to what county Fire Chief Don petito said, the Flagler Beach station would be modernized. “The city just can’t afford a 21st century fire department, it’s not big enough,” Beluhumeur said. “It costs a frigging fortune. So I don’t know, I think it’s going to cause a real stink bomb if it comes to the city commission.”

As far as fighting this morning’s fire, however, “all crews worked their butt off and did a great job,” Kennedy said. “One of those things you don’t want to happen to people, but it brings all the firefighters and surrounding agencies together.”

south daytona fire

The backside of the house. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

south daytona fire

All that was left of a bedroom. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

house fire flagler beach

The boat, built in 1960, was not damaged. The house was built in 1953. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

house fire flagler beach

Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

north fire

Most of the building in Saturday’s fire was spared damage. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

leonard fries house fire

But it was a different story for Leonard Fries’s house. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

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18 Responses for “Early-Morning Fire Demolishes House in Flagler Beach, 2nd Blaze in 2 Days in the City”

  1. anonymous says:

    That’s horrible and I’m sorry for the home owners loss.

  2. Tired of it says:

    Wow, no insurance. You got to be kidding me.

  3. anonymous says:

    This is absolutely horrible.. Someone needs to start a GoFundMe page for this gentleman. With the price of insurance now it is caused by frogs and so many accidents not many can afford homeowners insurance.

  4. anonymous says:

    This is horrible… Someone needs to start a GoFundMe page for this gentleman. With the price of insurance now a days and climbing do to fraud claims and accidents, many can’t afford homeowners/renters insurance. . Sad situation

  5. Screwed in Palm Coast says:

    Just paid $1,790.00 for this years house insurance. Then yesterday paid another $675.00 for FEMA flood insurance…….Won’t be able to pay for my food or electric for 5 months but hey…I got insurance.

  6. woody says:

    Sell the boat and buy some homeowners insurance.Well he can at least sleep in the boat.

  7. Rick G says:

    Who in their right mind has a beach side house without insurance???

  8. Shane says:

    First to Mr. Fries, I am sorry for your loss.
    Now it seems like the citizens of Flagler Beach need to start questioning the leadership and tactics used by the Flagler Beach Fire Department. Over the past 18 months every structure fire occuring in the city has resulted in total loss except for the one Saturday. That was because it was a fire outside of the structure. Now the raise the ladder on their $600k fire truck and take a defensive stance? It seems every fire they have including one that was 2 blocks from the fire station was fought defensively. It that why they wasted the good citizens of Flagler Beach taxpayer’s money? So instead of fighting fires from the inside at the seat of the fire to extinguish it and save property, they can just put the ladder up and soak it defensively? I mean Lt. Kennedy is throwing big words out there making it sounds like he knows what he’s talking about, but burning numerous houses to the ground makes it seem like they don’t have a handle on the situation. He wants more people on the truck and thinks that will solve the problem, it won’t. Back when it was a strictly volunteer department, houses didn’t burn to the ground and they ran everywhere in the county.
    I think it might be time for the city administration take a look and bring someone in that actually has experienced running a fire department, not just the former city manager’s do boy with no experience prior to his appointment.

  9. Annoyed says:

    Let’s me start by saying I’m very sorry for the homeowner. Let me finish by say sorry to the neighbor would placed the 911 call that I watched get man handle by the police and put in the back of the car with hand cuffs on. I thought that was odd but asked nothing of it. I then saw them release the kid and was extremely puzzled . I saw him later walking up the road and had to ask. I could not believe what the guy said, the detained him for possession of Marijuana. I know it is illegal and all. It is just not right in my book. He was doing nothing wrong. He did a very good deed actually. That why they let him go, from would he told me. He was a very nice young guy. I’m very upset with my local Flagler beach police department.

  10. Toni From the south says:

    Ya know, much money was put into this house for renovations and no insurance??? Come on, no bleeding heart here. Too bad. We pay our due. It’s expensive but hey, when you need it, you need it. Too bad for him. He is right to say he’s screwed- he is. Who suggested a go fund me page? Please!!! Save your donations for needy folks…

  11. Anonymous says:

    people are losing their homes because they can’t afford high insurance here in Flagler county.

  12. Jay says:

    That’s a horrible loss!! No Insurance, but has a boat!! Priorities for some can bite you in the ass!! I’m dying over the no insurance, but out of town and has a boat!! Set up a go fund me page??? Seriously needs a education in money management and protection of assets, not a bail out for being irresponsible. It pays to have insurance!!

  13. DaveT says:

    Anonymous “”people are losing their homes because they can’t afford high insurance here in Flagler county”

    Then maybe these people are either living above their means, not managing their money, or need to get a job..

  14. Steven Wood says:

    Where was Captain Pace did not see anything that he was on scene at either fire. We pay this guy big money to not show up to calls.

  15. Richard Smith says:

    Not too long ago I remember seeing an old pizza truck outside this house parked in the driveway near the road. I had no idea this place had burned to the ground until I drove by it today coming home from running errands. In regards to no insurance, obviously he had no mortgage otherwise the mortgage company demands that the owner have insurance. I just purchased a home a few blocks down the road and my insurance cost for one year was less than $800. You can’t tell me that he couldn’t afford less than $800 to have insurance plus his house is a LOT older than mine. When you are a home owner it is the SMARTEST and most PRUDENT thing you can do is to have it properly insured.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Got to love the monday morning, armchair quarterback, keyboard commandos who obviously have no knowledge of firefighting tactics.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Got to love the monday morning, armchair quarterback keyboard commandos who obviously have no knowledge of firefighting tactics

  18. Robert Lewis says:


    Your post and intentional and classless attack on a line firefighter is disgraceful. You have seemed to validate the exact reason why administration chose to terminate you for your record of inappropriate behaviors. You were the leadership, and you failed at that! Now you attack everyone else because of your personal failure to respond.

    I actually remember a fire many many years ago at the south end of town, that you lost. So before we throw stones at these brave men, check your personal feelings and allow them to do the job you failed to do.

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