Firefighters praised for protecting homes on Jewfish Key

rdymond@bradenton.comOctober 19, 2013 

This photo shows the scene of the fire on Jewfish Key, residents say. PHOTO PROVIDED

MANATEE -- A fire official said Friday that the work of 14 firefighters from Longboat Key, West Manatee and Sarasota County who meshed to fight a stubborn brush fire on Jewfish Key may have protected the key's roughly five houses, which could have been caught in the blaze.

Deputy Chief Rocky Parker of Longboat Key Fire & Rescue said the 200-foot by 200-foot brush fire that occurred at 9:30 p.m. Monday was suddenly fueled by wind, but the firefighters immediately dug in around the homes.

Jewfish Key is a private island located just off the coast of Manatee County.

"When the wind started picking up, we were somewhat concerned," Parker said. "It was a tough fire. You get a deep-seated muck fire and it is a hard one. The firefighters, led by Lt. Jason Berzowski of Longboat Key, who was in charge of operations, did a fantastic job defending the homes. They used hand tools to take away the vegetation. They worked hard. Their effort kept the fire away."

When the fire call came, Longboat Key's fire boat was down for repairs so the U.S.

Coast Guard came to the aid along with West Manatee's fire boat and four crew and Sarasota County's fire boat and four crew, Parker said.

The Coast Guard took six Longboat Key firefighters to the blaze.

"What makes these fires difficult is that it is not like pulling up in a fire truck," Parker said. "We had to load and unload our portable pumps, and they have to be set up in a timely manner."

The pumps pull water from Sarasota Bay to fight the fire.

Parker said residents were upset with the fire, believing it was caused by boaters.

"They have a real problem with boaters coming up and starting campfires that get out of control," Parker said. "It appeared in this case that a campfire that had been left started this fire."

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @RichardDymond.

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