Residents from roughly 30 homes were evacuated shortly after noon Thursday in response to the low, black cloud of smoke billowing from a five-alarm fire at Callaghan Tire, 1301 44th Ave. E., Bradenton, according to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.
The residents were allowed to return to their homes around 4 p.m., said Chief Brian Gorski of Southern Manatee Fire & Rescue, which coordinated the evacuation.
“It’s an estimate, but we think it was about 30 homes that were in line with the smoke,” said Dave Bristow, a sheriff’s office spokesman.
The evacuation decision was made quickly by Gorski.
I’m about to leave. I’m not liking the smell. The air is not smelling right.
Katie Brown, who lives in East Bradenton
“When we first got on scene, the wind was coming pretty heavy out of the east-southeast and carrying that smoke west-northwest,” Gorski said. “We know that burning tires have particulates that are toxic, so we grabbed a map of the area and formulated an evacuation plan.”
The evacuation plan, which went smoothly according to Gorski, involved the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, 911 and Manatee County Area Transit.
Gorski first asked the sheriff’s office to set up a perimeter, based on the wind direction, that stretched from 15th Street East and 44th Avenue East to 37th Avenue East and 15th Street East to Ninth Street East and 44th Avenue East to Ninth Street East and 37th Avenue East.
Then, Gorski had 911 send a reverse 911 call to those homes, telling residents that they were advised to vacate if possible.
Gorski also called Manatee County government, which responded with two MCAT air conditioned buses, one to pick up the residents and take them to a safe place and one for exhausted firefighters, of which there were more than 100.
“We greatly appreciate MCAT providing those buses for our people and the residents,” Gorski added.
It was not immediately known how many residents took the bus or where it went.
“If you looked at it, the fire was in the southeast corner of the perimeter and the winds were moving in a northwest direction, so that is the residential areas we targeted,” Gorski said.
The perimeter included a preschool that had about 70 students who were evacuated, Gorski added.
Outside the perimeter, but nervous
Katie Brown lives outside the Callaghan fire perimeter but she smelled a “chemically odor” in the air at her apartment on the corner of Fifth Street East and 33rd Avenue East not far from the fire.
“I’m about to leave,” Brown said around 2 p.m. “I’m not liking the smell. The air is not smelling right.”
Brown said she was heading to Palmetto. Traffic was congested around mid-afternoon because of the fire.
Earnie Roller, a meat cutter at Samoset Grocery and Meat Market, 3011 15th St. E., Bradenton, stays on top of all Samoset current events and reassured customers that they were fine at the market, which is not far from the blaze site but outside the perimeter.
“If the wind shifted just a bit it could have come here easily,” Roller said. “I called my brother who works at USA Fencing, and he said it was a big blaze up there.”
Bonnie Barnes of Samoset said the traffic was terrible because of the blaze.
“I couldn’t smell it, but I know I shouldn’t be around it because of the medication I’m on,” Barnes said.