Jennifer Brown, who has produced at least six excellent short films featuring wildland fire, partnered with the former Fire Management Officer at Everglades National Park, Rick Anderson, to make this video, Burning Florida. The footage was gathered at a prescribed fire last week in the Florida Dry Prairie at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park. The film has shots from the air (quadcopter) and ground along with the dedication from Mr. Anderson.
Jennifer Brown has produced another excellent film about wildland fire management. For this one she concentrated on the Last Dance wildfire in the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in the Everglades in south Florida. It features an informative interview with Jon Wallace who was the Incident Commander of the fire shortly before he transferred to a new job as Deputy Regional Fire Management Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Atlanta.
Land managers should commission quality film making like this more often — it can result in improved public understanding and support for what they do.
This 10 minute video is a documentary about the Mud Lake complex of fires that burned 35,000 acres in Big Cypress National Preserve in south Florida in May of this year. The film was commissioned by the Fire and Aviation section of Big Cypress. The producer, director, and editor was Jennifer Brown of Into Nature Films, who has a history of creating excellent films about wildland fire management in south Florida.
Below is the description provided by the National Park Service:
“Big Cypress National Preserve and the Southeast Region of the National Park Service are pleased to announce the release of the new short film, Mud Lake Mosaic. The documentary covers the management of the Mud Lake Complex, a series of wildfires caused by lightning strikes at Big Cypress in late spring 2015.
The Mud Lake Complex wildfires burned over 35,000 acres of Big Cypress National Preserve. Although naturally-ignited wildfires have helped shape the fire-adapted and fire-dependent Big Cypress landscape for thousands of years, fire managers cannot allow fires to freely roam the preserve without some degree of management. In the case of the Mud Lake Complex, major transportation corridors, private property and public safety all had to be protected.
Big Cypress fully embraces the scientific role of fire in the preserve’s cycle of life – from the plants, to the trees, to the wildlife. The preserve’s goal in their response to wildfire is to manage fire so it can provide natural benefit to the area and its inhabitants without threatening human safety.
The initial fire, the Ellison fire, began on May 8. Fire managers established boundaries to contain the fire, but continued lightning strikes over the next 48 hours ignited numerous other fires throughout the preserve.
Big Cypress requested help from the brightest minds in the firefighting and natural resources communities. Help came in from all over the country in the form of collaboration with other local, state and federal agencies and multiple interagency incident management teams.
The Mud Lake Complex lasted for over a month but resulted in a successfully executed strategy that helped to maintain and restore a resilient landscape. The film, Mud Lake Mosaic captures all the nuances of these challenging fires.”
Everglades National Park, at the southern tip of Florida, has been using prescribed fire since 1958 to reintroduce and maintain fire as a part of an ecosystem that has been altered by humans. They have been doing it so long that they apparently feel comfortable having park visitors bicycle or take a tram along a road that is used as a fireline on an active prescribed fire.
In 2014 Everglades prescribed burned about five times as many acres as were blackened in wildfires — 23,162 compared to 4,641 acres. Only about four percent of the acres burned in unplanned fires last year were on fires that were completely suppressed. The rest were managed, or not entirely put out and allowed to accomplish resource management objectives.
Like other units in the National Park System, Everglades is experiencing a “workforce realignment”. That’s National Park Service-speak for a major budget reduction. They are still figuring out the details, but it appears that the fire management staff will be “realigned” from about 35 to around 25 employees. Right now they have two staffed engines, fuels personnel, a fire ecologist, a helitack crew, and two fire effects monitors.
Jack Weer, the assistant Fire Management Officer, said most of their wildfires occur in the months of January through May, but said they can have fires any month of the year.
The park’s two engines, a Type 3 and a Type 6, hold 500 and 313 gallons, respectively. The also have two all terrain vehicles and four utility terrain vehicles. The Type 6 engine is on a Ford 550 chassis.
The park also has a very active aviation program, using helicopters extensively, occasionally several in one day. For decades they have used an exclusive use contracted helicopter plus call when needed aircraft, but in April, 2014 acquired their own ship, a Bell Long Ranger. For now they are using pilots under contract, but are considering, AFMO Weer said, hiring their own pilot. We have more information at FireAviation.com regarding the helicopter program.
In 2012 we told you about an excellent film that the park commissioned, titled The River of Fire. It was produced, directed, and edited by Jennifer Brown who at the time was an NPS Interpretation Division employee whose term appointment was about to end. Ms. Brown, now with Into Nature Films, has produced another great film about a 28,000-acre prescribed fire the park conducted in December, 2014. Check it out below:
Everglades National Park has produced another excellent video about their prescribed fire program. You may have seen one of their others, River of Grass, by then National Park Service employee Jennifer Brown, who now has her own video production company, Into Nature Films. Ms. Brown made this video as well, working with Fire Management Officer/Executive Producer Rick Anderson.
Here is the description of this video:
“National Park Service managers conduct a prescribed fire in cooperation with Boy Scouts of America. Camp Everglades is in the Pine Rocklands of Everglades National Park. This active Boy Scout Camp is in a fire dependent pine forest. Plants and animals that live in this rare and imperiled forest have adapted to frequent fires that are ignited by the abundant lightning that visits the land during summer storms. Humans may have used fire in this area to stimulate the growth of fresh green shoots in this otherwise nutrient poor forest. Coontie, a primitive plant who’s roots were processed to make a starch-rich bread by Native peoples and Florida pioneers, responds well to frequent fire. Everglades fire managers work with the Boy Scouts to reduce accumulations of brush and other flammable vegetation to reduce the threat of severe unplanned wildfires.”
This five-minute film features a lightning-ignited wildfire and the endangered Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow in Everglades National Park. These last, remaining sparrow populations increase the complexity of fire management in the Everglades.
The video was produced by Jennifer Brown of Into Nature Films. If her name sounds familiar it may be because we embedded one of her other films that she produced for Everglades NP when she was working there under a short-term appointment. That video, River of Fire, is excellent. It’s a shame that the National Park Service could not figure out a way to retain an employee with such unique and valuable skills. But she is still available as a contractor.