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Longboat Key Thursday, Jul. 9, 2020 1 year ago

Longboat Key resident thanks firefighters for putting out Fourth of July dumpster fire

Dean Congbalay sent an email to the fire chief to thank him for firefighters' quick action.
by: Mark Bergin Staff Writer

Dean Congbalay is grateful a friend he was visiting in Bradenton persuaded him to stick around to take in more of the Fourth of July festivities.

“I never want to overstay my welcome,” Congbalay said. “At some point, I said, ‘I think I’m going to go home’ after we had already eaten, and one of the hosts said, ‘well, just stay around and watch some fireworks for a while.’ ”

Congbalay, 56, finally arrived home around 10:30 p.m. Saturday at his Portobello condominium at 3235 Gulf of Mexico Drive. It was about 30-45 minutes later than he initially planned.

As he arrived, Congbalay smelled smoke and heard his building's alarm. He called 911.

A Longboat Key firefighter (left) poses for a photo with Dean Congbalay (right).

“I was really glad thinking about it afterwards that I did stay longer because if I had left the cookout when I wanted to or when I personally thought about leaving, I wouldn’t have sensed the fire in all likelihood, and so the timing was just right,” Congbalay said. “We were very lucky.”

Firefighters extinguished a dumpster fire in the garbage room of the condo. The Longboat Key Fire Rescue Department determined someone put smoldering fireworks in the garbage.

Town Manager Tom Harmer said in an email to commissioners that the damage was “minimal.” Congbalay estimated it was a few thousand dollars.

The department’s quick response prompted Congbalay to send a thank-you email to Fire Chief Paul Dezzi, Mayor Ken Schneier and Town Clerk Trish Shinkle.

“This was a situation that could have gotten really bad,” Congbalay said. “When I called 911, everybody came over very quickly. They were very professional as far as detecting where the fire might be and getting it all extinguished.

“Oftentimes, we hear about problems and when things don’t go well, but when things do go well, I always feel like it’s a good thing to recognize a job well done, and they did a great job.”

 Harmer and Dezzi both sent emails thanking Congbalay.

“Your quick action in calling 9-1-1 enhanced in the overall response and mitigation of this incident,” Dezzi wrote. “This fire could have gotten out of control not to mention the smoke that a dumpster fire generates.”

Dezzi agreed with Congbalay that the dumpster fire could have been much worse.

“That’s what hurts people and kills people in a fire is the smoke,” Dezzi said. “It’s not the flame as much as it is the smoke because smoke will travel."

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Mark Bergin is the Longboat Key Town Hall reporter for the Observer. He has previously worked as a senior digital producer at WTSP, the CBS affiliate in St. Petersburg. Mark is a graduate of the University of Missouri and grew up in the Chicagoland area.

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