Fire Stories

Fire stories from the national parks highlight events, incidents, and the like, associated with fire and fuels management, as well as fire education, technology, partnerships, and more. Stories highlight work related to Department of the Interior initiatives as well as local and regional initiatives.

Big Cypress fire at night.

Aerial view of flames and smoke with two engines near road.

Fuels Treatment from Previous Prescribed Fire Gives Firefighters Upper Hand in Fighting the Jarhead Fire

Big Cypress National Preserve
Department of the Interior story, Firefighting*

On April 27, 2011 firefighters from Big Cypress National Preserve responded to a wildfire located south of the Little Deer area, near the center of the preserve. Thunderstorm activity had been high on the 26th when the fire was first reported. At first light, resources from Big Cypress began initial attack on the Jarhead Fire and were able to make good progress securing the northeast flank of the fire, protecting eighteen residences and several outbuildings. Everglades National Park and Panther NWR joined the effort on days two and three, respectively. As wind direction changed, fire activity intensified, forcing the fire crews to focus on securing private structures threatened by the fire. Fire managers made the decision to place the majority of firefighting resources on protecting private property, confident that the northwestern flank would hold itself, thanks to a 5,000-acre prescribed burn conducted the previous year. Pines and palmettos in the treated area had only one year of regrowth, facilitating holding on that flank of the fire.

Multiple smoke columns form large plume

Multiple smoke columns rise to form a large plume.

Prescribed fire as a fuel reduction treatment is used extensively within the preserve. Big Cypress National Preserve has the largest prescribed burning program in the National Park Service, typically burning more than 50,000 acres annually.

While the Jarhead Fire eventually grew to 38,130 acres, the majority of those acres were burned in the construction and securing of containment lines. The footprint of the Jarhead Fire overlaid several other fuel treatment projects conducted over the past several years, helping maintain a burn frequency that approximates the natural fire return interval.

Big Cypress National Preserve is a unique unit of the National Park System. The preserve protects some of the last native landscapes of south Florida. Private ownership of land was authorized when Big Cypress was established by Congress in 1974. These laws provided that within certain guidelines, individuals can own and retain private improved property. Because of these private inholdings and structures, firefighters within the preserve face multiple wildland-urban interface issues.

With the Jarhead Fire fresh in the minds of the local landowners and community, the fire management staff plans to use this fire as an opportunity to educate homeowners within and adjacent to the preserve on defensible space.

Aerial view of vegetation post fire.

Aerial view of home with burned and unburned vegetation around it.

Contact: John Nobles, Big Cypress Fire Management Officer
Phone: (239) 695-9280 Ext. 104

*This story supports the Department of the Interior initiatives.