DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. - State investigators will sift through the ashes of the landmark watering hole Crabby Jack's on Monday to try pinpointing the cause of a two-alarm blaze that destroyed the bar and restaurant.
More than 50 firefighters from three area departments fought the fire for about an hour after receiving the first alarm at 6:56 a.m. Sunday.
By then the popular island-themed bar and restaurant — known for its laid-back, wear-your-swim-trunks atmosphere — was engulfed in fire, with flames shooting out of the roof, said Gary Fernaays, an assistant chief with Deerfield Beach Fire-Rescue.
"It was a local landmark and hangout," Fernaays said Sunday afternoon as firefighters continued to pour water on hot spots and locals dropped by to watch and take pictures from behind a barrier of yellow tape.
"Good chicken fingers here," said Gene Shiel, 64, who said he had been coming to Crabby Jack's for years. "It's a shame."
The street-side palm fronds that gave the bar its tiki look were gone, as were the tables, chairs and much of the front of the building at 1015 S. Federal Highway in the Rivertowne Square shopping plaza.
Untouched were two dart boards on an outside wall, some red-painted railings along a handicap ramp, and a sign bearing a cartoon crab warning, "Enter at your own risk."
Among those who stopped by early Sunday was Deerfield Beach Mayor Peggy Noland. She stood with other onlookers just south of 10th Street and watched as firefighters from Deerfeld Beach, Pompano Beach and Fort Lauderdale doused the blaze.
"A lot of people are going to miss it," Noland said of the establishment famous for Wednesday night karaoke and occasional vintage car shows in the parking lot.
"This is a landmark building that has been here at least for the 32 years I've been here. It is very well-known," she said.
Eighteen units from the three departments responded to the blaze.
"The initial knockdown took about 30 minutes," said John Quitoni, also a Deerfield Beach Fire-Rescue assistant chief.
Fernaays said the state fire marshal will investigate the cause of the blaze by dismantling ruins of the structure in sections.
He said firefighters will keep watch overnight on the charred restaurant remains to make sure there are no flare-ups.
Along with its casual atmosphere, Crabby Jack's was known for seafood, of course, as well as drink specials, music spun by local DJs, and Sunday afternoon live music jams.
The restaurant also enjoyed a reputation for community involvement, hosting a golf tournament to benefit the area Boys & Girls Club.
For years Crabby Jack's also hosted a classic car show, when the restaurant would be ringed by shiny vintage autos. "We used to have a lot of fun here," said Pat Harris, who with her husband, Dave, often made the short drive from their home in a 1966 Chevrolet Chevelle.
The Crabby Jack's blaze may well be the last large fire that Deerfield Beach Fire-Rescue responds to under that name, since the City Commission recently voted to merge with Broward Sheriff's Office Fire Rescue.
"We have one of the best fire departments in the county," Noland said. "They will stay in Deerfield Beach. All the fire departments are headed to regionalization.
"The cities can't afford to buy ladder trucks and aerial trucks, but merged, we can have two or three that can be used in an emergency like this," she said.
Staff researcher Barbara Hijek contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2011, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Copyright 2011 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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