We’ve had the dubious honor of reporting on two aquarium store fires lately, and have since found out about two more. Two weeks ago we reported on a fire at Gateway Aquatics in St Louis, and only this week new Reef Builders Team Member Evie Anderson visited the scene of devastation after the blaze at FJW Aquarium in Houston, Texas.
Well, we can now bring you the sad news of yet another store fire, this time at Elite Marine Life in Florida, and have been contacted by Andrew Bunya of the Aquarium Connection in California, which also suffered a terrible fire back in October last year, resulting in a total loss of his business. We asked Andrew about the ordeal he had been through at Aquarium Connection, nearly eight months on.
“My family has been in the tropical fish industry since the early 1960s. I grew up working for my parents as early as I can remember. I took a job w Dr. Tim at Marineland when I was 18. We not only have a brick-and-mortar shop but have installed and designed some very high-end aquariums in Southern California.”
“My beloved shop also burned down in October 2022 and was an absolute tragedy for me, my family, and my team. I have been an aquarist for the past 25 years. We are a very loved shop in the area and the last one standing in our city with literally thousands of customers. 2022 was the biggest year we ever had in terms of sales, custom installs, and service. We were having the best year and the synergy within my business and team was at an all-time high. There are no words that I can write to you to describe the amount of devastation and heartbreak we have been through since the fire, and still continue to deal with today.”
“We are here nearly 8 months later trying to put the pieces back together. It breaks my heart for the other stores which took losses. Our fire was tragic in terms of losses and damages to our unit. Insurance wrote it off as a total loss. Only to find the insurance policy we had for contents was completely inadequate. We suffered a total loss of the shop and were completely underinsured for nearly $1.5M in contents! We also only carried a 12-month business interruption policy, recommended by our insurance agent, and really should have had approx 24 months.”
“We have focused post-fire mainly on service and design and continue to fight to keep our business alive and keep all of our employees. Being in the business nearly my entire life we never experienced nor thought something like this would ever happen to us. We want to share a message to other local LFS and service companies about the importance of electrical safety and how this could easily happen to anyone and the importance of having an adequate policy.”
“All of our adult coral colonies and broodstock are pretty much completely wiped out just as we had added 6 massive frag systems and had plans to stock all of those systems which were 11ft long each. Miraculously my 550-gallon reef display made it. We got red-tagged and had no power for months – it was literally the only thing that made it. We used generators and found lights in the fire debris to keep our reef tank alive. Everything else pretty much perished in the fire. All of the inventory was smoke damaged with little that could be salvaged and reused.”
The cause of the fire
“After many investigations, it came down to a bad light plugged into a power strip that was plugged into a faulty gfci plug. Terrible how quickly the fire took the shop. It literally seemed like a 20-30 min fire. Post-fire, we want to stress the importance of having the correct coverage moving forward. We are also very thankful to our friends to put this gofundme page together for us. We are trying to raise funds to help bridge the gap and get back on our feet as soon as we can.”