Coming Home to Big Cypress

Robyn Broyles at briefing.
Robyn Broyles addresses firefighters at a morning briefing at the Oil Pad Complex.

Catherine J. Hibbard/NPS

Serving as a Public Information Officer (PIO) for a wildfire complex at Big Cypress National Preserve (BICY) was more than just an assignment for Robyn Broyles - - it was a trip down memory lane. Broyles, a Fire Communication and Education Specialist for the Bureau of Indian Affairs at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, lived at BICY in the 1980’s when her father, Paul, was a Fire Management Officer there. More than 20 years later, Robyn returned as a PIO with the Southern Area Type 2 Incident Management Team. The Team was called in for the Oil Pad Fire Complex, which burned over 10,000 acres on the Preserve in June of 2011. For Broyles it was a homecoming.

Only about six years old when she was last at Big Cypress, Broyles foreshadowed her future. “I remember climbing with my sister, Andrea, on a big yellow fire engine used by my Dad for work.” At the Oil Pad Complex, Broyles worked out of a room in the Preserve’s headquarters building. “It still smells the same,” she observed.

 
Robyn Broyles at school.
Even though Broyles has grown, many of the landmarks around Big Cypress National Preserve remain the same 20 years later.

Jill Wilson/NPS

The Broyles family lived in housing down the street from the BICY headquarters. During her fire assignment Broyles reconnected with some of her former neighbors, the Bartalinos and Kacers, who still work at the Preserve.She also visited her old home.The sight of it and an avocado tree in the back yard welled up memories.Once, Broyles got a watch from her Grandparent’s for Christmas and her father got a fishing net with a handle made of two sections. While Broyles tested the new net in the channel in back of her house, the sections came apart sinking the net. She jumped in to save it. Only when she emerged did she remember her new watch.The following Christmas Broyles’ Grandparents again gave her a watch, only this time a waterproof one.

Broyles is proud she has continued her family legacy as a professional in the wildland fire community and feels lucky to have returned to Big Cypress.“Some things really are how you remember them and that is a great thing I love about the National Park Service.”

Last updated: April 14, 2015

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