HOLMES BEACH – Part-time Holmes Beach residents Dorene Collier and AJ LeBlanc wonder if a small meteorite or some other falling object started a small fire in the backyard of Collier’s home on 84th Street Friday night.
Collier and LeBlanc were in Tampa when the Friday, Jan. 3 fire occurred.
“We were getting ready for a renter to come in for a few months. We pressure-washed everything that day and everything was wet, so it doesn’t seem like it was started by any kind of brush fire,” Collier said when speaking by telephone from Tampa on Saturday afternoon.
Collier’s neighbor, Carol Whitmore, was walking her dog Friday night and reported the fire.
“Our neighbor noticed some kind of fire and the fire department came. They didn’t find any signs of an electrical fire, cigarette butts or firecrackers or anything like that. I asked her to go by this morning and the pictures she sent me show this big hole in the ground,” Collier said.
“It appears that something might have hit from out of the sky and made this hole in the ground that started this fire. I don’t have proof of it, but I’ve eliminated everything else. There was no lightning last night, everything was wet outdoors and nobody was there. It didn’t hurt the house at all. It just made a hole in the ground, lit a piece of the wooden post and broke the fence. It could be something that fell from a plane, but we think it was a meteor because of the hole in the ground and the fire,” Collier said.
Collier said the fire department didn’t find any remnants or residue that suggested a meteorite or a piece of an airplane.
“It could have just burned up when it hit the ground,” Collier said. “Another neighbor of mine came over and said it looked like a sinkhole – so maybe it was something that fell out of the sky.”
On Sunday, Collier spoke with some other neighbors who said the fire might have been caused by a firecracker and the crater might have been dug by the responding firefighters.
“We can’t be sure what it was,” Collier said.
Kwiatkowski said later that firefighters did not dig the hole.
“I was walking my dog at about 10 o’clock and all of a sudden I saw flames shooting up in the backyard and they were pretty high. I knew they weren’t home, so I called Chris Rudacille and asked her to come down. By the time Chris got there the flames were small and I called the fire department,” Whitmore said when contacted Saturday evening.
Whitmore said she did not see any flaming objects fall from the sky.
“I asked the firemen what they thought it was. They said they didn’t know, but it was something hot,” Whitmore said. “There’s a big crater I noticed today when Dorene asked me to take those pictures. The hole wasn’t there when they got the place ready for their renters.”
When contacted Saturday evening, West Manatee Fire Rescue Inspector Rodney Kwiatkowski said, “I listened to the call last night, waiting to see if the guys were going to call me out to do an investigation, but they didn’t. There was a small fire next to the shed and it was put out quickly. I spoke with yesterday’s ranking on-scene officer, Captain James Leigh. There was no mention of a meteor or any unidentified falling object when engine 131 showed up and responded to a reported structure fire called in by a neighbor. The fire was relegated to brush and a single sawhorse. It was quickly extinguished with a water extinguisher and soaked with a garden hose,” Kwiatkowski said.