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Pine Island residents, businesses rally behind chamber after fire destroys building

By Staff | Jan 13, 2012

MEGHAN McCOY A fire occurred around 3 a.m. Friday at the Greater Pine Island Chamber of Commerce. Officials say the building is a total loss.

An outpouring of community support has already begun on Pine Island after the residents and business owners found out about a fire that destroyed the Greater Pine Island Chamber of Commerce early Friday morning.

Pine Island Fire Department Deputy Chief Joe Marzella said the Sheriff’s Department called in the fire at 3:02 Friday morning. He said the fire was put out in less than an hour.

“Nobody got hurt,” Marzella said.

Cape Coral had three different vehicles at the fire Friday morning with six people and Pine Island had four different vehicles with nine people on site, Marzella said.

He said the State Fire Marshall has determined the fire to be arson. The fire is under investigation.

Marzella said the building is completely destroyed and was turned back over to the Chamber of Commerce Friday afternoon.

“Everything is lost,” Chamber of Commerce Board President Jay Johnson said.

John Paeno, who will become the 23rd chamber president at the annual dinner, said the most important things, like their finances and memberships, are safe because they are backed up at another location.

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lisa Benton said she has already contacted the insurance company, which has started the ball rolling. She said they are taking the steps that need to be done.

Johnson said although the fire is a blip in their operation, they will continue to support all the businesses of Pine Island through the process of rebuilding the Chamber.

Paeno said they would have a phone and laptop computer set up by 1 p.m. Friday, so the chamber can continue to provide its services.

Benton said individuals can continue to call the same Chamber of Commerce number at 239-283-0888 with the calls being directed to a cell phone.

Paeno said they hope to have an RV set up on the property Monday, so they can continue to operate out of the same location.

Benton said the Calusa Ridge people are donating a RV for them to use for chamber operations. She said she will send out a mass email to all the members to inform them of how things will be operating.

“Just because the chamber is gone we are still here,” Benton said.

The chamber plans on rebuilding on the same site if allowed.

“We are going to have to start a building drive,” she said.

Chamber officials are all very appreciative of the community support they have already received and they know the community will continue to stand behind them.

“I know the community will stand behind us and we will be better for it,” Johnson said.

Benton agreed stating that she knows the community will stand behind them as they recover from the fire. She said Stonegate Bank, the Subway building, Breeze Newspapers and Calusa Ridge residents had already offered space for the chamber before noon on Friday. In addition, she said she has also heard from the Sanibel and Cape Coral chamber of commerces.

“It is incredible the support we have already gotten,” Benton said. “The support has been incredible.”

The annual dinner, meeting and election for the chamber will still be held Jan. 23 at Sandy Hook Fish and Rib House. After hours at Harborside Gallery will also take place Jan. 19 at 6 p.m.

The Greater Pine Island Chamber of Commerce building was built in 1967.