• The Florida panther's steely gaze - NPS/RALPH ARWOOD

    Big Cypress

    National Preserve Florida

Fire Operations

Big Cypress Fire Operations Program consists of four modules:

Both modules have highly specialized swamp buggies, which provide support and transportation into very rugged terrain.

 

The goals of the Fire Management Program at Big Cypress are to protect life and property and manage a fire-adapted ecosystem. This is accomplished by examining each fire start in the context of other variables, including nearby values at risk, current and predicted weather, time of year, and the condition of the hydrology and fuels in the area. Due to difficulty of access and the fast-burning fuels, a strategy of using natural barriers, old burns, and existing roads and trails is often implemented. This has the advantage of assisting us in maintaining a healthy and sustainable ecosystem. Big Cypress suppression modules are based out of two locations: the Deep Lake Fire station on Highway 29 and the Oasis Visitor Center on US 41.

The Deep Lake module has one type-6 engine and three swamp buggies. The Oasis Module has one type-3 engine and two swamp buggies.

During periods of very high or extreme fire danger, it is not uncommon for resources from other parts of the country to come to Big Cypress to be pre-positioned for hard-to-control fires. As south Florida's fire season tapers off, Big Cypress firefighters are often sent all over the country to assist in national fire management efforts, while others maintain coverage for the Preserve's local fire situation.

Big Cypress operations staff also works closely with the prescribed fire staff to provide assistance in every aspect of prescribed burning. The opposite is also true - the prescribed fire staff supplements the operations staff on wildfires, filling in open spots on established modules and even coming together as a squad to assist in fire control efforts. In addition, many employees outside of fire management are red-carded and fill in during periods of very high or exteme fire danger.

Big Cypress is somewhat unique within the National Park System for the amount of private inholdings within the Preserve's boundaries, and work with the Ochopee Fire Department to provide protection for these structures in case of a fire threatening them. Big Cypress also works closely with the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, Everglades National Park, and the A.R.M. Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, and the Florida State Forest Service to provide fire response coverage across south Florida.

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