Fire rips through Flagler Playhouse, destroying iconic building in downtown Bunnell

Firefighters worked overnight to put out the flames.

Photo by Brian McMillan
Photo by Brian McMillan
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A fire tore through the Flagler Playhouse the night of Oct. 29, destroying the historic building at 301 E. Moody Boulevard in Bunnell.

A passerby had reported the fire after seeing heavy smoke coming from the building, Flagler County Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Brady Berry told the Observer.

Photo courtesy of the Palm Coast Fire Department

Firefighters arriving at the scene found black smoke billowing from the building's eaves, and flames in the rear, after they were dispatched around 10 p.m., according to Flagler County Fire Rescue Chief Michael Tucker. The building was unoccupied.

"It took us about 10 minutes to realize that the fire had already gained control of the attic," Tucker said. "It was built in 1957, so there's been a lot of additions, of lot of changes, a lot of void spaces. So when the fire got into the attic, it really, really, took off on us."

Berry said Firefighters from Flagler County Fire Rescue, the Palm Coast Fire Department, the Flagler Beach Fire Department and Ormond Beach Fire Department worked through the night to put out the blaze.

"Once [firefighters] got in there, the conditions deteriorated to such a point that we had to evacuate all interior operations on the building and go to an exterior defensive operation," Berry said.

The firefighters set up an aerial fire operation around the building using tower trucks and a ladder truck. 

"Took us quite a few hours to, obviously, get the fire under control and suppress the main body of the fire," Berry said. "There was a structural collapse within the main area of the theater behind the steeple."

Once firefighters took a defensive position outside, Tucker said, they worked to keep the flames from spreading.

"Unfortunately, we did lose the actual theater itself, and on the west side of the building there's an addition that's a storage area, but we were able to pull a lot of the props out and get most of them out of the building."

Firefighters kept the fire out of the offices in the rear of the building and protected a building to the east of the theater building, he said. 

As of the morning of Oct. 30, firefighters had extinguished the fire and were waiting for the state fire marshal to arrive to investigate the fire's cause. 

The roadway near the building remained closed the morning of Oct. 30, with detours in place.

The front of the playhouse, which faces out on Moody Boulevard, was built in 1957 as the First Baptist Bunnell church, with additional wings and buildings added later, according to the Flagler County Property Appraiser's Office.

The city of Bunnell warned residents the morning of Oct. 30 that locals may experience low water pressure while the city's water treatment plant replenishes the supply because because so much water was used to fight the fire. The city government is asking utility customers to limit water usage today.

Photo by Brian McMillan


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