A large area of burnt dune vegetation is the result of a March 20 fire that neighbors fear is the byproduct of parties at Siesta Key’s Beach Access 7. (photo by John Morton)
By John Morton
Dune vegetation caught fire the night of Saturday, March 20 adjacent to Beach Access 7 on Siesta Key, leaving behind about 40 yards in diameter of char.
Firefighters extinguished and cleared the scene of the blaze, reported at 10:35 p.m., by 1 a.m., a Sarasota County spokesperson said.
The cause is undetermined.
Jamie Clouse, who was visiting her parents at the neighboring Siesta Gulf View Condominium at 420 Beach Rd., called in the fire.
“I was getting ready to put my kids to bed and one of them said, ‘The beach is on fire.’”
She called 911 and then watched it spread rapidly.
“It was windy, and within four or five minutes it tripled in size,” she said. “The wind and the smoke were going toward the Gulf, fortunately, so I wasn’t worried about our place but I was worried about the houses behind it.
“There’s a lot of brush down there and I’m thankful the firefighters were here so fast. “There’s a lot of brush down there and I’m thankful the firefighters were here so fast. It was impressive to watch them get their hoses onto the beach like they did. That’s not easy.”
Her mother, Beverly Donaldson, also watched the fire from their balcony.
“I saw the ring growing and heard the pops,” she said of small trees and plants bursting into flames.
Residents there wondered if it was caused by Spring Break visitors having a bonfire. The area is a large and secluded spot, popular for parties.
“It’s a really active place and they have let it grow out with the vegetation,” Siesta Gulf View resident Rachel Hollstadt said. “And, it’s away from the main beach, so it’s an easy place to have gatherings and not be seen. There are lots of them.”
The March 20 fire notwithstanding, Hollstadt said it’s become a problematic beach access.
“I live in the middle of the building, but I still hear the noise — especially from the parking lot, where they run their cars and blast their radios.
“Then, there’s the fact that there is no bathroom facility. That’s the biggest complaint I’ve heard from my neighbors.”