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National Fire Plan Success Story

Prescribed Burns Helped Fight the Florida Bugaboo Fire
Osceola National Forest, Florida
National Fire Plan - Fuels Reduction

Prescribed burns and fuel hazard reduction conducted by the Fire Management team in February of 2007, on the Osceola National Forest helped stop the Bugaboo fire from moving closer to the city limits of Lake City and Taylor, Florida, in May of 2007. The prescribed burning project took place on the Osceola National Forest, and was completed with the assistance of the Columbia County Fire Department, Florida Division of Forestry, Georgia Forest Commission, Baker County Fire Department, Baker County Emergency Operations Center, Baker County Sheriff, and the Highway Patrol.

The fires began on Bugaboo Island in the middle of the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia. Within a 24 hour period, the fire ran around 20 miles of the northern region of Florida along the southern border of Georgia.

From the start of the fire, the blaze was sweeping through mature timber at 20 to 30 feet in length. The direction of fire was difficult for the fire management team to predict because it was not a solid wall of flame. The fires had multiple heads, were small, narrow, and they sparked at different locations and times.

The Bugaboo fire burning in pine timber.
The Bugaboo fire burning in pine timber.

As the fires continued, the fire management team was sure the fires were headed toward Taylor. The team came up with plan to stop the fire before it could encounter any neighboring towns, especially the town of Taylor.

Their first priority was safety for the fire fighter and the public. To make sure the public remained safe, the Osceola National Forest worked with Florida Division of Forestry, Georgia Forest Commission, Baker County Fire Department, Baker County Emergency Operations Center, Baker County Sheriff, and the Highway Patrol.

“We had everybody dedicated to fighting this fire,” said Peter Myers, the Fire Management Officer on the Osceola National Forest.

The team worked into the night as plan after plan to stop the fire failed. Despite the team efforts, the fire seemed to be getting worse, and it seemed like it was heading for private land. The length of the fire had grown from just 20 to 30 ft to a massive 150 feet with some spotting. At this point, the fire had destroyed over 4,500 acres of timber on the forest, two hunting camps, and some private land.

The firefighters and the Fire Management recommended evacuation of the town of Taylor, because they believed the fire would soon reach that land. It took the firefighters three days and three nights to protect the town of Taylor from the countless number of narrow head fires threatening the community.

Once the fire crew began to get the upper hand on the fire around Taylor, another major fire started in a nearby swamp. The cloud of smoke looked like a monster hanging over the forest service roads leading into the town of Taylor. FS Law Enforcement Officer Jim Ellis said, the fire was moving fast at this time with flame in length of 100 feet, with spotting towards the Southwest.

The fire crew put together a plan to start evacuating all communities along the west side of the forest north of I10 and east of Hwy 441. Shortly after the notice was given to evacuate and Columbia County Fire Department was in place for structure protection, the fire seemed to drop out of the trees and it started to fade along the fire perimeter, where there had been some prescribed burning.

Myers said, “A witness that was out there was amazed on how the fire was running hard and when it reached our burn units the fire just started backing and in some places went out.”

Contact: Denise Rains, Public Affairs Officer (850) 523-8568