NewsSarasota, Manatee County


Fire From Above: Did a meteorite leave a crater on Anna Maria Island?

Witnesses think fire came from the sky
Posted at 10:25 PM, Jan 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-08 23:31:23-05

A ball of fire, then a small crater left behind. The owners tell us something had to hit the fence; something had to have been hot enough to set a patch of trees on fire and burn the siding of a nearby building.

The question now, what was it?

That is the mystery some people who live on Holmes Beach are trying to solve.

"All of a sudden fire started, and nobody knows why," Carol Whitmore said.

Whitmore was out walking her dog around 10:15 p.m. Friday when she looked across the street and saw a fire on her neighbor's property. The flames were along the side of the house on the property line burning in a bank of trees.

The heat was strong enough to char the siding of a nearby shed.

"There were flames shooting up about four to six feet in the air," Whitmore said. Whitmore, a Manatee County Commissioner, At Large, said it could've been anything.

"After all this, the fence was blown out there was a large hole here, and as you can see, the wood around is burned out, so something directly hit it," Whitmore said. "The firemen came, and I asked, 'what do you think caused this?' And, they said 'something hot.'"

Some people in the neighborhood believe the crater was already there, and people shooting off fireworks are to blame.

"My logical guess maybe it would've been part of a plane or something," Whitmore said. "It has to be something that made the crater cause the crater wasn't there that day. After all, this the fence was blown out. There was a large hole here, and as you can see, the wood around is burned out, so something directly hit it."

ABC Action News reporter Michael Paluska talked to William Cooke over the phone. Cook is the Lead for NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Cooke's primary focus is to track objects that could pose threats to spacecraft. But, he also tracks meteorites that breach the earth's atmosphere. Cooke said he was skeptical that the fire and crater were caused by something from outer space.

"Meteorites by the time they hit the ground are not hot; they are cold after cooling down," Cooke said. "Meteorite being flaming rocks of doom is movie stuff."

For a crater, that big Cooke said there would have been a massive fireball that would've been seen by everybody for miles around. And to leave a hole that big Cooke said the force would've been enough to take out the entire island.

People on Holmes Beach still keeping a close eye on the sky.