Blaze destroys barn, tractors


EAST MANATEE -- A family's harvesting business faces an uncertain future after a fire destroyed a barn containing tractors and trucks Wednesday afternoon.

Audrey Garcia, who owns Ellenton Fruit Co. with her husband and sons, said she was cooking a country rib dinner at her home, in the 3800 block of Pope Road, when she heard a loud boom at 4 p.m.

Garcia said she ran outside to see flames engulfing her company's barn, which housed three tractor-trailers, a forklift and tools.

"It just said, 'boom, boom, boom, boom,'" Garcia said. "It scared me."

Fire officials don't know yet how the blaze started, but they do not suspect arson, said Will Schroeder, spokesman for East Manatee Fire Rescue. No one was injured in the blaze on the nine-acre property.

It took 45 minutes, 10,000 gallons of water, five firetrucks and nine firefighters to get the blaze under control. Firefighters made 10 trips to nearby Mill Creek and GreyHawk Landing subdivisions to replenish water supplies.

Neither Schroeder nor Garcia could estimate the cost of the damage. Both said it was significant.

Garcia said her family worked for years to acquire what was in that barn for their business.

"We didn't have anything," she said. "Little by little but now it's all gone."

The tractor-trailers were not insured, she said. Garcia doesn't know what the family will do now.

Garcia's son, Ray Jr., who lives in a house next to the barn, said he was in the shower and did not hear the explosion. After showering, he glanced out of his laundry room's window and saw the flames.

"It was all coming out of the shop," he said. "There was no way I could do anything. I couldn't even save my semis. They were already on fire."