Grayton Beach's iconic Red Bar burns down

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WALTON COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Word to locals traveled fast as history changed for the Red Bar Wednesday morning.

"I woke up to a bunch of texts messages and went, 'Holy smokes! What's going on?,'" said Santa Rosa Beach Resident Donnie Lunsford.

Around 5:30 a.m., South Walton Fire District got the call.

"They were able to contain the fire to The Red Bar and they went to kind of a defensive attack and were able to keep the fire from spreading," said South Walton Fire District Fire Marshal Sammy Sanchez.

While they were able to stop the fire from spreading, the heat was so intense it left buildings across the street with cracked windows.

And the flames put up a fight.

"It was pretty stubborn so to speak," said Sanchez.

Fire officials say natural causes allowed it to burn so intensely.

"The wind was pretty strong [Wednesday] morning so it was really... it kept fanning the flames so our crews had to battle that as well," said Sanchez.

The loss of The Red Bar isn't something that's only going to affect the locals, the spot was known nationwide and was a huge tourist attraction to the area.

"Because The Red Bar was so unique, it was something that was really special to people, it held a place in people's hearts," said Visit South Walton's Communications Director, David Demarest.

And its reach spanned thousands of miles.

"Really without doing any marketing they became a place that people knew around the world and that was by bringing in the music and the art and those authentic touches and great food. But it'll be back, and I think it'll be better than ever," said Demarest.

While the owner says he's planning on rebuilding, many say they won't forget the memories made there.

"Probably lots of blood, sweat, and tears of everybody that's been here and not everybody that's still here, but people, you know, throughout time," said Lunsford.

After a fire investigation conducted by the local Fire Marshal and the Florida State Fire Marshal’s Office, the fire appears to have originated in the dining area within the front section of the restaurant.

During the fire, the roof and walls collapsed which created large piles of metal and wood debris that made it extremely difficult to extinguish and to search through. Heavy equipment had to be utilized to remove debris and clear areas to be investigated.

The Florida State Fire Marshal's Office has deemed the cause of this fire to be undetermined, however, electricity could not be ruled out as the source of the fire. Currently, the fire remains under investigation by the State Fire Marshal’s Office.

South Walton Fire District crews have completed the overhaul of the structure and have cleared the scene.

No injuries were reported, and property damages are estimated to be between $350,000 to $500,000.