Documentary film about the Mud Lake Complex of fires in Florida

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.”

Florida: Mud Lake Complex of Fires

(UPDATED at 2:03 EDT, May 17, 2015)

Mud Lake Fire
Mud Lake Fire May 16, 2015 Photo by Jason Longfellow, Florida Forest Service.

No current information is available on the Mud Lake Fire, since Inciweb is broken.

Mud Lake Fire
Mud Lake Fire May 16, 2015 Photo by Jason Longfellow, Florida Forest Service.


(UPDATED at 12:12 p.m. EDT, May 15, 2015)

Mud Lake Complex of Fires
Mud Lake Fire Complex. Photo by Jason Longfellow, Florida Forest Service.

The Mud Lake Complex of six fires in Big Cypress National Preserve in south Florida grew by more than 3,000 acres on Thursday and has now been mapped at 7,689 acres.

Currently the tactics include monitoring, as well as protection of structures, red-cockaded woodpecker trees, and panther habitat. Strategic firing operations will be employed when opportunities exist.

Firefighters are saying it will continue to burn until seasonal rains raise the water table.

Map of Mud Lake Fire Complex
Map of Mud Lake Fire Complex, at 3:11 a.m. EDT May 15. The red and yellow squares represent heat detected by a satellite.


(Originally published at 11:09 a.m. EDT, May 14, 2015)

Mud Lake Complex wildfire
One of the fires in the Mud Lake Complex in Big Cypress National Preserve. NPS photo.

Big Cypress National Preserve in south Florida has six fires managed as the Mud Lake Complex, that together have burned 4,049 acres thirty miles east of Naples. The fires were started by lightning between May 8 and May 12 both north and south of Interstate 75 (Alligator Alley). Their remote location makes access for ground crews difficult, so firefighters have been primarily fighting the fires by dropping water from aircraft.

“Although some areas of the fire received spotty showers [Tuesday], the water table has dropped to an extremely low level in Big Cypress Preserve”, said Bob Sobczak, Big Cypress Hydrologist. “Therefore, the entire ecosystem is relatively dry and susceptible to fire until the water table rises” .

Southeast winds continue to push fire toward Interstate 75, while thunderstorms have also been affecting the fire behavior.

Suppression efforts on the ground will be limited until accessibility allows safe access for firefighters.

As of Tuesday night, resources working the fires included two hand crews, four swamp buggies, three engines, six helicopters, one single engine air tanker, and an air attack.

On Thursday morning Wallace’s Type 3 Incident Management Team transitioned to Dueitt’s Southern Area Red Type 1 Team.

Map of Mud Lake Complex May 13, 2015
Map of Mud Lake Complex May 13, 2015. NPS.

Florida: Huckabee Fire burns 16,000 acres

Huckabee Fire
Huckabee Fire. NPS photo.

UPDATE at 12:16 p.m. ET, April 1, 2013

The Huckabee Fire 26 miles east of Naples, Florida continued to require intermittent closures of Interstate 75 overnight due to smoke and fog, but it reopened Monday morning. Burning in Big Cypress National Preserve, the fire has blackened 20,000 acres and is 40% contained, according to Cass Palmer, the Incident Commander of a Type 3 incident management team running the fire.

On Sunday firefighters conducted a 4,000-acre burnout which reduced the visibility on the Interstate and required a temporary closure. A minor accident on the highway was managed as an incident within an incident by the Florida Highway Patrol.

Firefighters have observed the fire spreading at 80 to 100 chains per hour (5,280 to 6,600 feet per hour) and spot fires up to 600 feet ahead. A large Type 1 helicopter and a Hotshot crew arrived at the fire Sunday.

According to the Incident Status Summary, the Incident Commander expects to fully contain the fire on Monday, April 1.


(Originally published at 9:29 p.m. ET, March 31, 2013)

Map of Huckabee Fire
Map of Huckabee Fire at 3:48 p.m. ET, 3-31-2013. The red areas indicate locations most recently burned that were detected by a satellite.

A wildfire in Big Cypress National Preserve has forced the closure of Interstate 75 in Alligator Alley. As of 1 p.m. ET the Huckabee Fire 26 miles east of Naples, Florida had burned 16,000 acres since it started 48 hours earlier. The fire is 10 percent contained and the cause is described as suspicious by the staff of the Preserve.

I checked the weather at the Panther East automatic weather station 2.5 miles northwest of the fire and the conditions have not been extreme. The temperature on Sunday ranged from an overnight low of 47° to a high of 86°. The minimum relative humidity on Sunday was 37 percent, which is a little low for south Florida. The wind has been 8 mph out of the southwest with gusts to 15.