EAST MANATEE — An early morning fire that consumed an estimated $93,000 worth of vehicles and equipment in a remote Myakka City farm field is being considered suspicious by East Manatee Fire Rescue officials.
The fire, which destroyed one large John Deere tractor, an extra-cab pickup truck and a storage box Wednesday, was first spotted from the air at about 1:30 a.m. by a Manatee County Sheriff’s Office helicopter crew, said George Ellington, the fire marshal for East Manatee Fire Rescue.
The fire occurred on Perfection Farm, east of the De- soto Speedway, off a dirt road near 222nd Street East. The area is about a mile south of the Saddlehorn subdivision, Ellington said.
Ellington said he spent much of Wednesday trying to figure out who owns the farm to find out who may have been out near the fire site at 1:30 a.m., where everything was kept, and what could have caused the blaze.
Ellington wrote down the license plate of the burned pickup, and registration came back to George Clark of Palmetto.
Clark could not be reached Wednesday, Ellington said.
“I would say there are plenty of questions to be asked,” Ellington said. “We don’t know if Mr. Clark is the farm owner. We’re definitely going to keep looking for the owner. We have no witnesses. We have no suspects.”
Ellington is not even sure if the farm owner knows there has been a fire. “They had already put down plastic along the crop rows so they probably weren’t planning to come back to that area for awhile,” Ellington said.
Moments after seeing the blaze, the Sheriff’s Office notified East Manatee Fire Rescue, which sent a tanker truck, fire engine and a special brush vehicle called a “wild land unit,” said Battalion Shift Commander Stacey Bailey, who was first on the scene.
“This was late at night and there was so much damage when we got there it would be difficult to determine where it started,” Bailey said.
Having the wild land unit was fortunate, due to the rough terrain, Bailey said.
“It’s a big military truck with a pump and tanker and we can go through the woods,” Bailey said of the wild land unit. “We were about a half mile out on ag land in the back section of the property.”
Firefighters put out the bulk of the fire in 30 to 40 minutes, but had to put down a stubborn hydraulic fluid fire with a foam designed to put out flammable liquid.
Firefighters had their mop-up operation completed by about 4:30 a.m., Bailey said.