Boat shop owner vows to rebuild after blaze

Storage facility, shop, several vessels are lost in 5-alarm Edgewater fire

March 07, 2000|By Kimberly Marselas | Kimberly Marselas,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Art Lilly surveyed the ruins of his boat repair shop in Edgewater yesterday -- twisted metal, melted signs and the charred vessels of his customers in the wake of a weekend five-alarm blaze.

Fire investigators are trying to pinpoint whether an exploding transformer, as described by a witness, was the cause of the fire that engulfed the shop of Lilly Sport Boats in flames Sunday afternoon.

Lilly said 15 high-performance boats were destroyed or badly damaged, and his shop and storage facility were destroyed by the fire. But he vowed that the business will recover -- even if it means relocating.

"We'll survive this," said Lilly, who has owned the shop for 15 years. "This is only a minor setback."

Lilly and his employees spent yesterday morning moving the boats damaged by the fire to his Indian Landing Marina in Millersville. Two boats that had been inside the building, including one worth just under $500,000, were destroyed, he said.

Although his insurance will cover the damage to the boats, Lilly said, he will most likely not be able to reopen the repair shop in the same location off Central Avenue West.

"For me it will be a total loss," he said as workers cleared debris from the boatyard. Yellow police tape prevented Lilly from entering the building to begin salvaging what might remain. The cinder-block building was condemned by the county.

Lilly, who learned of the fire in a recorded message Sunday afternoon, said several customers hung up on him after he called to tell them their boats were destroyed.

Tim Jarboe was on hand to watch the cleanup. His Scarab performance boat, covered in soot and burned in some places, was one of the few that remained on the lot.

"I'm not too happy," said Jarboe, who lives in Columbia and had his boat in storage at the shop. "My insurance company is supposed to be on their way out here today."

Jarboe held no hard feelings for Lilly, whom he called a friend.

"He's had a rough day," Jarboe said.

Though the investigation is continuing, a county fire spokesman, Battalion Chief John M. Scholz, said it does not appear to have been of suspicious origin.

According to a witness, a transformer on a telephone pole behind the shop exploded about 2 p.m., spewing combustible fluids onto the building and igniting the tar-and-wood roof. Lilly said the fiberglass boats and fuel inside the building probably helped the fire spread quickly.

An official inventory of damaged property is under way, but early estimates put the loss at more than $1 million.

Staff writer Laura Barnhardt contributed to this report.

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