USGS airboat flips, starts fire in Everglades

Everglades airboat crash and fire
Crashed USGS airboat. WSVN

Wednesday afternoon an airboat carrying three U.S. Geological Survey researchers flipped over and started a vegetation fire in the Everglades in northwest Miami-Dade County in Florida. None of them were injured as they were ejected. They were rescued by another airboat of researchers.

In a video at, a reporter said the fire was 10-15 acres and no agency was taking suppression action.

Everglades NP conducts Rx fire near Homestead Airport

Context Road Rx Fire
NPS photo

Today Everglades National Park is conducting the Context Road prescribed fire along their eastern boundary near the Homestead General Airport.

Context Road Rx Fire

The photos were taken with a Motorola Droid. I took the liberty of cropping them a little.

Video of Dirty Jobs segment on prescribed fire

Earlier we told you about the segment on the TV show Dirty Jobs that featured prescribed burning in the Everglades of south Florida. We now have the 10-minute video of that program.

The part where the air boat becomes stuck near the fire is at 4:00 minutes.

Just before the end, at 10:08 is where Gerry Barnes of the National Interagency Fire Center (according to a description of the video on YouTube, see below) accidentally discharges a flare launcher into an air boat containing at least 4-5 people.

Here is the description of the video that is on YouTube:

In this episode of Dirty Jobs, Mike Rowe heads off to the Florida Everglades to help combat non-native, invasive species in the marshlands with Jon Wallace the Prescribed Fire Specialist at the Arthur R. Marshall, Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge and along with Miranda Stuart of the Prescribed Fire Training Center and Gerry Barnes of the National Interagency Fire Center they utilize the “Pyro-Shot” hand launcher and the new “Green Dragon™” automated Dragon Egg™ launcher to burn off approximately 6000 acres at the Loxahatchee NWR.

Prescribed fire to be on Dirty Jobs (updated)

UPDATED 10-26-2010 (scroll down)

Jon Wallace and Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs
Jon Wallace of the USF&WS poses with Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs. Prescribed fire smoke is in the background. Photo: Dragon Fire Ignition Products

Prescribed fire in the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge will be featured in the Tuesday, October 26 episode of the Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs. Mike Rowe traveled to the Everglades to battle invasive species using machetes, poisons, and prescribed fire.

Mike Rowe Dirty Jobs
Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs. Photo: USF&WS

The trailer for the episode on the Discovery Channel emphasizes girdling and poisoning invasive melaleuca trees, but we know that Mike Rowe also got involved in a prescribed fire. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service firefighters used a “Green Dragon” device for ignition, which fires a new generation of ignition spheres sold by SEI Industries called Dragon Eggs, smaller than earlier versions of the spheres. We wrote about this new device back in March.

We’ll have to wait and see how much of the prescribed fire footage ends up in the Dirty Jobs episode. Check your local listings for what time Tuesday night it will be shown.

More information about the filming is on the USF&WS site.


UPDATED 10-26-2010 @ 9:05 p.m. MT

Did anyone see the program? It looked like everyone had a good time filming the prescribed fire portion (there was lots of laughter throughout) UNTIL a person identified in the program as “Jim” “Gerry” accidentally discharged a FireQuick flare launcher within a crowd of people on an air boat. Here is a photo I took off a television at the moment of discharge; you can see the flame coming out of the launcher. Gerry is in the curiously red shirt.

flare launcher accidental firing

It is not obvious in the photo, but “Gerry” and the 4-5 others were in an air boat at the time. It appears that the flare launcher was loaded with a large “Stubby” flare which looked like it landed in the boat. Talk about a NEAR MISS! As far as we know, there were no injuries, however the woman closest to the launcher said “Ow” as she held her left ear.

In September of 2009 Wildfire Today wrote about another incident with a flare launcher that resulted in an injury. That post also has photos of the flare launcher and the flares.

UPDATE November 1 @ 10:00 a.m.

A video of this 10-minute segment is HERE. According the description of the video on YouTube, “Gerry” is “Gerry Barnes of the National Interagency Fire Center”. The telephone directory for NIFC lists a “Gerald Barnes” who is a Fuels Program Analyst for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Time to think

When I walked into Bill Supernaugh’s office one day in 1995 I found him looking out the window with his feet up on his desk. I was the Fire Management Officer and had an appointment with the Assistant Superintendent of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore to brief him about the prescribed fire we were going to ignite in the park in a few days. I got along well with him and felt comfortable smiling and saying, “Oh sorry, I didn’t know you were busy–I’ll come back later” and half turned to walk away.

He pointed to a chair and told me to sit down. In the banter that we usually engaged in before getting around to business he explained that he was “thinking”, something that he felt was important for a manager in his position, supervising the Operations of a large workforce and a big chunk of public land. Taking time to think gave him the opportunity to mull over the issues of the day and strategize about the direction the park would take. He said a person in his position was more of a thinker than a doer.

I wanted to slink down into my chair and disappear, because what he said made perfect sense and I was giving him a hard time. I was there to brief him about a project I was going to DO, and he was going to take my information and THINK about it, then approve it, ask for more information, or give me advice about how to do it differently, or not at all.

At 5:00 a.m. on August 26, 1992 Hurricane Andrew made landfall, knocking the crap out of south Florida and four national parks including Everglades, Big Cypress, and Biscayne Bay. Early the next morning I was in a rental car south of Miami driving through Homestead trying to navigate on back roads while driving over downed power lines and other debris. The first power line was scary as hell, but then we realized there was no electricity anywhere. Navigation was difficult because all of the road and street signs and many of the usual landmarks were gone. Even someone with us that was familiar with the area was disoriented.

We were a Type 1 All-Hazard Incident Management Team with a mission to rescue park employees and restore the infrastructure. It was a huge job and after a few days as Planning Section Chief I felt a little overwhelmed, with lots to do and not enough time in the day to get it all done. In confessing my situation to our Incident Commander, Rick Gale, he said “Order the personnel you need to get the job done. You are paid to think, not do.”

After that, I made time, like Bill Supernaugh, to think. Occasionally I even put my feet up on a desk.

Until he retired from the day to day operations of Microsoft, Chairman Bill Gates scheduled a twice-yearly “Think Week” ritual, where he would take a helicopter or float plane to his secret lakeside cabin and… think….by himself….barring all outside visitors. He would rarely leave the cabin during the week except for an occasional walk on the beach, having a caretaker slip him two simple meals a day at the cabin. He subsisted on the two meals, Diet Coke, and Orange Crush.

Think Week was legendary in Microsoft. Gates would pore over about 100 papers written by company executives, researchers, managers, and developers, who hoped to obtain approval for their new project, or a new direction for the organization. Comments that Gates wrote on the papers could give the green light to a new technology that millions of people would use, or send Microsoft into new markets. He had to be careful what he wrote, after finding that a casual “Hey, cool, looks good” could result in 20 people being assigned to a project.

Barack Obama appears to understand how important it is to set aside time to think. Here is part of an accidentally-captured conversation between Obama and British Conservative Party Leader, David Cameron. Cameron asks Obama if he will be taking any time off for a vacation this summer:

Mr. Cameron: Do you have a break at all?

Mr. Obama: I have not. I am going to take a week in August. But I agree with you that somebody, somebody who had worked in the White House who — not Clinton himself, but somebody who had been close to the process — said that should we be successful, that actually the most important thing you need to do is to have big chunks of time during the day when all you’re doing is thinking. And the biggest mistake that a lot of these folks make is just feeling as if you have to be …

Mr. Cameron: These guys just chalk your diary up.

Mr. Obama: Right. … In 15 minute increments and …

Mr. Cameron: We call it the dentist waiting room. You have to scrap that because you’ve got to have time.

Yes. You have to have time to think. Those of us in the emergency management business too often see time to think as a luxury we don’t have. True, at times, when split second decisions can have life-long, or even life-dependent outcomes. But when initial attack becomes extended attack morphing into a long duration incident, thinking is not a luxury. It is a necessity.