PORT LAVACA – The Indianola Fishing Marina received severe damage after floodwaters caused an electrical fire that burned the building’s roof and bait room as Hurricane Hanna made landfall on Saturday.

“It is my heart and soul,” said Brenda Henselka of Victoria, who owns the marina with her husband. “Our building made it through Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 hurricane. Because of the fire, it didn’t make it through Hanna.”

Henselka said she and her husband drove to the marina in his Ford F250 at 8:30 a.m. to pick up her computers, cell phone and credit card machine. The storm surge then was already at least five feet, Henselka said, surpassing the two- to four-foot surge she had prepared for the night before.

At 11:15 a.m. she checked the footage from her security cameras and saw the marina filling with smoke. One of the marina’s coolers got wet, Henselka said, causing an electrical fire that burned the bait room and the building’s roof.

Firefighters from Port Lavaca, Magnolia Beach and Seadrift arrived to fight the blaze, Port Lavaca Fire Department Engineer David Lloyd said. But not all of the fire trucks were able to get to the building because the road leading to the tip of the peninsula was flooded over. By the time a fire crew arrived, the building was already severely damaged, Henselka said.

Jacob Kief, who works at the marina and volunteers with the Magnolia Beach fire department, arrived on the scene at about 12:15 p.m. Another crew from Seadrift arrived about an hour later, Kief said. Nearly a dozen firefighters tried to douse the flames as the waters rose from their knees to their thighs and filled the fuel system of one of the engines.

“It was heartbreaking,” said Kief, who fished at the pier for almost a decade when he was growing up before returning to work there. “To be honest, I was crying and putting (out) the fire at the same time because I was watching all those memories in that building crumble to the ground.”

By the time other volunteer firefighters arrived to help out, the bayside road leading to the marina was impassable. At about 2 p.m. Samantha Pugh, whose husband is a volunteer firefighter with the Magnolia Beach fire department, looked toward the marina over the “High Water” sign that blocked off North Ocean Drive. All she could do was wait. Twenty minutes later, a Magnolia Beach fire engine was towed back from the marina by a heavy-duty truck.

Kief said the entire marina, with the exception of the carport, is destroyed.

The marina is a popular destination for food and fishing. On its pier, visitors eat seafood and catch three-foot drum with live bait.

Henselka and her husband have owned the marina for 16 years, and the building was constructed in 1963 after Hurricane Carla, she said. Hurricane Harvey damaged the marina’s awning and bait room in 2017 and Tropical Storm Bill flooded the store in 2015. As Hanna approached the Texas coast, it outdid them both.

“Tropical Storm Bill only got eight inches of water in our store,” Henselka said. “That’s what I thought Hanna was going to be. The building’s made for water to go in and water to go out. We didn’t plan for a fire.”

Kief said the marina was rebuilt within a month after Harvey. He expects this time to be harder, but he hopes Henselka will be able to restore the beloved fishing site.

“I wouldn’t be surprised it she rebuilt a better marina,” he said. “But she’ll have to start from the ground up.”

This story was updated July 28, 2020 to correct which department owned the fire engine that had to be towed and to correct Samantha Pugh's connection to the Magnolia Beach Volunteer Fire Department. 

Mark Rosenberg reports on rural community life for the Victoria Advocate as a Report for America corps member. He can be reached at mrosenberg@vicad.com or 361-574-1264 or on Twitter at @markrosenberg32. To support local journalism at the Advocate through Report for America, go to VictoriaAdvocate.com/report.

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Mark Rosenberg writes about rural community life for the Advocate as a Report for America corps member. He covers Calhoun, DeWitt, Goliad, Jackson, Lavaca, and Refugio counties. Questions or tips? Contact: mrosenberg@vicad.com or call 361-574-1264.

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