Over 3,500 rental cars destroyed by fire at Fort Myers Airport

The vehicles were stored in a grassy field

rental cars burn fire Fort Myers Airport
Over 3,500 rental cars burned at Southwest Florida International Airport at Fort Myers, Florida April 3, 2020. Photo by Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office.

(Click here to see an updated version of this article, including the fact that dozers built a fireline through the burning cars.)

Yesterday a fire at the Southwest Florida International Airport at Fort Myers, Florida destroyed 3,516 rental cars that were stored in an overflow parking area on the east side of Terminal Access Road. Firefighters on the ground were assisted by helicopters dropping water on the flames. The cars were stored in a grassy field, a fact that may have helped the fire spread. Vicki Moreland, communications director for the airport, said even though 3,516 cars burned, another 3,800 cars in the lot were saved. She said the cause of the fire is being investigated by the State Fire Marshal.

rental cars burn fire Fort Myers Airport
Over 3,500 rental cars burned at Southwest Florida International Airport at Fort Myers, Florida April 3, 2020. Photo by Florida Forest Service – Caloosahatchee Forestry Center.

The main road leading to the terminal was closed during the fire but reopened at 11 p.m. Friday. Saturday morning, Florida Forest Service personnel returned to the scene to make sure the fire did not pick back up again, according to Melinda Avni, FFS mitigation specialist.

The Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office reported that one of their Huey helicopters flown by Chief Pilot Shane Engelauf made over 80 water drops on the fire.

rental cars burn fire Fort Myers Airport
Over 3,500 rental cars burned at Southwest Florida International Airport at Fort Myers, Florida April 3, 2020. Photo by Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office.
rental cars burn fire Fort Myers Airport
A small pyrocumulus cloud forms over the convection column of smoke as over 3,500 rental cars burned at Southwest Florida International Airport at Fort Myers, Florida. Photo by Sean Tully, April 3, 2020.

rental cars burn fire Fort Myers Airport

WTREX provides prescribed fire training for women

Women-in-Fire Prescribed Fire Training Exchanges are supported by TNC, USFS, and DOI

Women-in-Fire Prescribed Fire Training Exchange
Women-in-Fire Prescribed Fire Training Exchange event in Florida, March, 2019. WTREX photo.

Women-in-Fire Prescribed Fire Training Exchanges (WTREX) holds 12-day training sessions to help women advance their formal qualifications in wildland fire management. The goal is to enhance their understanding of fire ecology, fire effects, communications, outreach, prescribed fire policy, and planning. At least three sessions have occurred, in Florida and California.

When the U.S. fire management system was conceived in the early 1900s, women’s roles in the workforce were much different than they are now. Even today, women constitute a relatively small proportion of the workforce, filling roughly 10 percent of wildland fire positions and only 7 in 100 leadership roles. In recent years, there has been an increased effort to recruit women into fire, yet social and cultural challenges remain. New recruits often find the dominant fire management system to be dismissive of female perspectives and strengths, even as its increasing complexity requires fresh approaches and insights.

More information about all types of Prescribed Fire Training Exchange events can be found at The Nature Conservancy and at the Prescribed Fire Training Exchange (TREX) Facebook page.

Women-in-Fire Prescribed Fire Training Exchange
Women-in-Fire Prescribed Fire Training Exchange event in Florida, March, 2019. WTREX photo.

WTREX is supported by Promoting Ecosystem Resilience and Fire Adapted Communities Together, a cooperative agreement between The Nature Conservancy, USDA Forest Service, and agencies of the Department of the Interior.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Paula. Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Miami has armored vehicle for high water, high winds, & active shooter incidents

Miami fire department armored vehicle
Miami Fire Department’s armored truck. From ABC 10 video.

The Miami Fire Department has acquired an armored truck that can be used for incidents involving high winds, high water, and active shooters. Since we are seeing more of these types of emergencies it might be very useful.

The video lays out the details, including the body armor labeled “FIRE”.

Miami fire department armored vehicle bullet proof vests
Body armor for firefighters in the armored truck.Miami Fire Department’s armored truck. From ABC 10 video.
Miami fire department armored vehicle
Changing a tire appears to be complicated.Miami Fire Department’s armored truck. From ABC 10 video.

“You’ll get to carry fire”

Looking at the experience of prescribed fire

Prescribed fire Big Cypress National Preserve
Prescribed fire at Big Cypress National Preserve video. Screenshot from NPS video below.

I assumed this third film in a series about prescribed fire at Big Cypress National Preserve in south Florida would be strictly that, prescribed fire. But it took an unexpected turn highlighting the unheralded and under-appreciated federal employees — firefighters — without whom there would be no fire management program in the National Park Service and several other agencies.

In the film there is no off screen narrator that drives that point, but instead there are interviews with two firefighters who obviously cherish the work they do. As a former firefighter, (is anyone ever a FORMER firefighter?) I could relate to the sentiment. They didn’t mention the money they make, which is a fraction of what they could make doing more, uh, normal work. But they conveyed the satisfaction in what they are accomplishing, both personally and for the natural resources.

“We’re here to manage the land and we have that responsibility as a human to do that.”
Megan Hurrell, Firefighter and Fire Effects Monitor at Big Cypress National Preserve

I don’t know if it was one of the producers’ objectives, but the film could serve as an effective recruitment tool.

“I went to my first fire and I knew right then. It’s kinda like when people say you meet the love of  your life it was kind of like that. It was — wow! That was good work, that was hard work. I’m filthy. I feel good about myself, I’m doing something that’s right. I’m comfortable with that and I’m in awe with it.”
Jay Thatcher, Burn Boss at Big Cypress National Preserve

When I was a Fire Management Officer and Burn Boss, occasionally a high-ranking person in the agency would attend a prescribed fire that was in progress. If they were near the action they wore personal protective equipment and I often put a drip torch in their hands and let them participate in ignition, under close supervision, of course. Sometimes it was difficult to get the drip torch back. They had a different perception of prescribed fire after that experience.

Recently a mom was encouraging her eight-year old son to serve in their church as an acolyte, with part of the duties being lighting candles at the alter. She told him, “You’ll get to carry fire,” then she looked at me and smiled.

For Megan and Jay in South Florida it’s in their job description. Sometimes wildland firefighters hear, “You’ll get paid in sunsets.” Well, that, and, you’ll get to carry fire.

Burn Boss: A History of Fire and People in Big Cypress National Preserve

Above: screenshot from the video below.

Big Cypress has released their second in a series of three films about prescribed fire in the south Florida Park, titled, Burn Boss: A History of Fire and People in Big Cypress.

Here is their description:

The job of the Burn Boss is difficult. Perhaps the toughest in all of professional conservation. To be the Boss of Fire, you must be willing to take responsibility for one of nature’s most powerful forces: Fire.

Jennifer Brown and Into Nature Films worked shoulder-to-shoulder with Big Cypress National Preserve to tell the history of the National Park Service’s most accomplished fire program. With beautiful cinematography, fascinating interviews, and tantalizing story, this film highlights the colorful people and places in the wild heart of south Florida, narrated and written by Rick Anderson, a descendent of Florida pioneers. Rick has dedicated his life to the use of fire for the land.

Last month the first film in the series was released, “Fire Swamp”, that  explains the relationship between fire and the swamp.

Prescribed fire at St. Vincent NWR produces massive smoke column

The manager of the Twitter account for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge wanted to make it clear that the photo was taken during the implementation of the prescribed fire.

The refuge is in the Florida panhandle, southeast of Panama City. (map)