‘Rips your heart out:’ Fire destroys part of Atlantic Beach & Tennis Club in St. Augustine Beach

ST. AUGUSTINE BEACH, Fla. — A community in St. Augustine Beach is working to rebuild after a massive fire destroyed part of the Atlantic Beach and Tennis Club.

“It was like heartbreak,” said Kristyn Hemberger, a club member.


It was a tremendous loss for the community.

“It was horrible, just horrible. I just can’t believe this,” said Bill Brothers, the owner of the club.

Brothers has owned the Atlantic Beach and Tennis Club for more than three decades. It’s a club that offers tennis courts, pools, workout spaces, and a family environment to its members.

“People love it here,” Brothers said. “We are like a second family.”

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Brothers was one of several people around the club who woke up to see massive flames.

“I saw flames coming over this building here, nice bright orange light,” said James Sistrunk, who was on vacation at the club. “As I walked around, I saw the whole building in flames.”

St. Johns County Fire Rescue reported that at around 1:30 a.m., they were called to the scene and noticed large flames and smoke upon arrival. Firefighters used multiple water supplies to fight and extinguish the fire, including multiple hand lines and aerial operations.

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There are no injuries reported. The cause of the fire is under investigation by the St. Johns County Fire Marshal and the Florida State Fire Marshal.

As people in the neighborhood woke up Tuesday morning, they were in disbelief to see the destruction.

Kristyn Hemberger said she has come to the club every year for the last 33 years.

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“I know that they will rebuild it and it will be better than before and I will be able to bring my son here and he’ll have his memories,” Hemberger said.

As for Brothers, he is optimistic they will rebuild the place he calls home.

“To watch your home burn down it just rips your heart out,” Brothers said. “But you know we are fighters and will come back.”

SJCFR has responded to a commercial structure fire on Ocean Trace Rd. Calls received to 911 reported that there were...

Posted by St. Johns County Fire Rescue on Tuesday, September 26, 2023

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