By Mary Hladky

The state fire marshal is seeking the public’s help in its investigation of how a Jan. 2 fire started in vacant townhomes on the site of a proposed luxury condominium at the intersection of East Palmetto Park Road and South Ocean Boulevard in Boca Raton.

The fire marshal’s office, which is heading up the investigation, is offering up to $5,000 for information leading to the identification of persons responsible for the fire and has posted a sign on the site saying that arson is suspected. Money for the rewards comes from the Florida Advisory Committee on Arson Prevention.

To report information, call 877-662-7766, 561-513-2547 or 561-620-6051.

The fire broke out at about 4 p.m., engulfing about one-third of the Breakers Townhomes in the Por La Mar neighborhood before Boca Raton Fire Rescue crews were able to extinguish it. No one was injured.

The fire prompted temporary closures of portions of South Ocean Boulevard and Southeast Wavecrest Way.

A fire marshal’s spokesman said on Jan. 7 that the investigation is ongoing and that no additional information was available.

“The residents in Por La Mar have been complaining for months about homeless people, mostly teenagers, going in there at night and partying,” said Katie Barr MacDougall, president of the Riviera Civic Association which includes Por La Mar. “One of the neighbors thought there were kids in there setting off fireworks.”

Homeless people at the site is not a new issue. In 2020, a 26-year-old man was charged with first-degree murder for killing his father in the parking garage of an office building on the property. Both were homeless.

The townhomes and the office building will be demolished soon to make way for One South Ocean, a 70-unit condo on 3.5 acres that is being built by Miami real estate investor Ramon Llorens.

The Riviera Civic Association supports the condo project. MacDougall has said that project architect Jorge Garcia of GarciaStromberg GS4 Studios in West Palm Beach was willing to accommodate their requests for small design changes.

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  • Help me out.  What am I missing here?  Boca let the homeless folks squat here with impunity, partying, smoking, lighting off fireworks.... then when the fire starts, we are all shocked?   What a joke.   The structure should have been demolished or sealed off a long time ago.   Who actually made the decision not to?  Somebody didn't do their job.  

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