Van catches fire on Manatee Avenue West in Bradenton

BRADENTON -- A van caught fire before 2 p.m. Thursday in Bradenton near 75th Street West and Manatee Avenue West.

"The thing was just melted on the road," said Bradenton resident Danny Dryna, who said he saw the 1956 GMC panel van in the westbound lane of Manatee Avenue West about 2:30 p.m.

Bradenton Fire Marshal Kenneth Langston said there were no injuries and the cause of the fire was not suspicious.

"The engine caught on fire and it spread through the vehicle," Langston said. "It's not unusual to have vehicle fires. It happens pretty often."

Dryna, a 38-year-old Bradenton Herald press operator, was on the scene for about 15 minutes and lent his cell phone to the van owner to call for help.

"He's a little hippie, barefoot, shorts, no shirt, headband that looks like it was cut out of a pillowcase," Dryna said. "He was the best-spirited guy in the world."

Information on the driver was not available.

The owner told Dryna the carburetor caught on fire. He tried to put out the fire with an extinguisher, but the blaze was too strong.

Soon, fire and ambulance trucks arrived on the scene. Dryna said even the Florida Department of Transportation was there.

The van was colored in wavy lines of yellow, red and gray. Its front was charred and eaten by the blaze. The left side suffered considerably less damage than the right side, which was destroyed.

"It's unrecognizable now," Dryna said.

Dryna added the van owner wasn't laughing, but was in good spirits. The van was towed away by Sarasota-based Advanced Towing.

"I've seen crazy stuff," Dryna said, "but not exactly that."

Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter@AmarisCastillo.