BAYPORT — Usually, an earnest "thank you" or pat on the back is more than enough. But the owners of the Bayport Inn have decided to show their gratitude for a group of local firefighters the best way they know how.
Plate after plate of New York strip steaks, ribs and fried grouper.
Owners of the Bayport Inn will host a dinner tonight for more than 20 local firefighters and emergency rescue officials who helped put out a raging brush fire last month that threatened the 40-year-old watering hole and about a dozen nearby homes.
"We wish we could do more because they saved our livelihood," said Bayport Inn manager Deanna Myers. "They went above and beyond and they deserve it."
Fire crews from the state Division of Forestry, Hernando County Fire Rescue and Spring Hill Fire Rescue saved the Bayport Inn and homes from the fire that began on the evening of June 17 near Pine Island, apparently from a lightning strike in the marshy area.
Myers said the landmark restaurant and bar was nearly surrounded by the blaze. Employees and customers stood by as firefighters raced to wet down the building's wood siding.
While firefighters worked to put out the fire, Myers said she drove over to Pine Island Drive to get a glimpse of the inn. She couldn't see much of anything — thick plumes of smoke obscured the view.
"I was concerned that we were going to lose everything," Myers said. "I wanted to see if the building was still standing."
Firefighters managed to hold off the encroaching flames, dousing the area with water. After the blaze had finally settled down and the inn seemed to have averted disaster, Division of Forestry spokesman Don Ruths said: "It's lucky it's still there."
Indeed. And this evening, the firefighters will return to the scene to use forks and knives and not water hoses.
"This is probably the most rewarding part of the job," Ruths said. "Normally, the guys don't get to chat. And this will give us a chance to thank them for the mutual support."
Joel Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 754-6120.