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“Saturate Us With Resources,” Fire Commanders Tell Rick Scott in Flagler County

| June 14, 2011

Rick Scott arriving at Flagler's EOC this afternoon. (FlaglerLive)

Gov. Rick Scott arrived at Flagler County’s Emergency Operations Center at 4:08 p.m. today, wearing a brown shirt sporting Flagler’s emergency operations insignia, and immediately went into an incident command briefing with the county’s and region’s commanders managing some 22 wildfires.

Twenty minutes later he made himself available for a nine-minute press conference that shed little light on his intentions or the state’s specific commitment–financial or material–to fight the fires beyond the Scott’s emergency declaration on Monday.

There’d been speculation that Scott would tour some of the fires locally; the White Eagle fire appeared on some fire officials’ schedule of the governor’s visit. But while Scott seemed aware of the severity and size of the Espanola fire, now beyond 4,000 acres, he said he had not been to an actual fire since they began, and was not about to.

“I saw the fires as I was flying in, I saw the fire yesterday as I was flying to Orlando, and I saw some today as I flew over from Orlando,” Scott said during the press conference. “I’m not going to go tour right now any fires locally. I’m also going to be flying to Naples and I’ll be seeing fires–about I think three days ago I was flying into I think Fort Myers and you could see the fires out in the west, I guess east, Lee County, some fires there.”

The governor appeared to have been only lightly briefed about the situation in Flagler or Northeast Florida as he went into the closed-door briefing. During that session, one of the briefing participants said, the governor was filled in on the various fires and the local command structure in place. He in turn asked asked such questions as how long a fire chief had been on the job locally, and what resources may be needed.

Asked about forwarding a request for a federal emergency declaration in response to the wildfire, Scott suggested there were no such plans at the moment. “We’ll continue to monitor this and see where we are,” Scott said.

So far Flagler County government has spent $472,700 on fire-related expenses, including $147,562 in overtime pay for county personnel and $177,000 on supplies and food, which is being distributed to firefighters on the line from area shops, according to figures distributed by county officials immediately before the press conference.

The governor spent a few minutes at the start of the press conference thanking the various agencies and states (including Virginia and Kentucky) involved in fighting fires and talking about the fire, but with few insights beyond the burn-ban regulations and recommendations this and other counties have been disseminating to the public for the past several months (don’t have open fires, be vigilant, don’t drive your catalytic converter over dry grass).

He read from a prepared statement: “Almost 80 percent of Florida wildfires are started by humans. For that reason we all should be careful of these guidelines: don;t burn anything on days that are hot, dry or windy, which seems like every day now for a little while. Check with your local fire department or the Division of Forestry before burning anything. Never leave any fire, no matter how small, unattended, be careful using anything outdoors that involves flames, high heat or can cause sparks to fly into dry vegetation, and everything is dry vegetation now.” He went on with additional guidelines, down to the heat of catalytic converters in cars, matches and “smoking material.”

Scott gave little indication, beyond the executive order he issued on Monday, whether and how additional resources might be channeled to Flagler County. He appeared only barely versed in the fire emergency’s details, or in querying the line-up of firefighting and emergency response professionals lined up behind him, wall to wall, in the county’s emergency operations room, where the press conference was held.

Flagler County Fire Chief Don Petito, left, and Incident Command Manager Marty Senterfitt, Jacksonville's emergency management chief. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Marty Senterfitt, the regional incident command management team commander who’s been coordinating much of the firefighting response in Flagler County for the past week, said before the closed-door briefing with the governor that his message would be clear: “I’m going to remind him of the history of this community,” Senterfitt said. “I’m not going to talk speculation. I’m going to talk fact. We have proven in 85, we have proven in 98, we have proven in 2007 how this environment can create an incredible wildfire situation. Do not underestimate it. We’re going to ask for all the resources possible. What I would like to see is for them to saturate us with resources, because we know, Chief Petito knows very well, this environment that we’re in right now has the potential to go bad very quickly.”

Don Petito is Flagler County’s fire chief and the overall commander of the fire emergency in the county. “That’s what Chief Petito has been doing since I’ve been here is get ahead of it, stay ahead of it, and don’t ever fall behind,” Senterfitt continued. “And part of the secret of getting ahead of a fire like this is make sure you’ve got the right number of resources on the ground. If you try to do with just a limited number of resources, then you start juggling too many balls in the air and you’re going to drop some.”

Mike Kuypers, the Division of Forestry’s district commander, was also in the closed-door briefing. The division has taken over command of the Espanola fire, and will be taking over additional fires in coming days.

“The most important thing is that with this continued dry weather, we may not have peaked yet,” Kuypers said, summarizing his remarks to the governor. “We still have a potential for a lot of fires, a lot of big fires, and we need to continue to staff up accordingly, because really any one of these lightning strikes that will sit out there for two or three days as things dry off can just take off and run for thousands of acres. That’s the big concern, is trying to keep them small, catch them small and be able to put them out before they do any damage, particularly to structures.”

The scene at the situation room of the Emergency Operations Center this afternoon. (© FlaglerLive)

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36 Responses for ““Saturate Us With Resources,” Fire Commanders Tell Rick Scott in Flagler County”

  1. Jojo says:

    Is he a “stakeholder”?

  2. Mike says:

    “Scott suggested there were no such plans at the moment. The state’s intention is to “monitor” the fires…”

    Everybody who voted for him in Flagler county and beyond…are you getting this loud and clear? Scott’s version of “Let’s get to work.” He’s going to “monitor” the fires.

    Man of action.

  3. Michelle says:

    He dresses up like an Emergency Operations employee but won’t get his hands dirty by actually going to a fire site.

    “I saw the fires as I was flying in, I saw the fire yesterday as I was flying to Orlando, and I saw some today as I flew over from Orlando,” Scott said during the press conference. “I’m not going to go tour right now any fires locally. I’m also going to be flying to Naples and I’ll be seeing fires”

    They must have nicer fires in Naples. I remember sitting in my back yard in 1998 and hosing down chunks of burning fire debris as the wind carried it around. But I guess he won’t even get that close.

  4. Johnny Taxpayer says:

    He’s not going to the fire sites, because he’s not a fire fighter. The last thing he needs to do at this time is take firefighters off the fire-lines and create a huge distraction for some dog and pony show.

  5. cynthia says:

    Let’s throwdown the bullshit card!

  6. dave says:

    you gotta love that guy , (NOT ) I say remember him when it’s election time and vote him out, oh and if someone from eoc gave him that shirt he was wearing they would be looking for a new job tomorrow if I were their boss. we the tax payers of Flagler do not need to be giving the likes of Rick Scott anything at alljust like he isn’t giving us anything..

  7. Charles Ericksen, Jr says:

    The Governor lives in Naples,,,

  8. Kim says:

    Gov. Scott’s election to the state’s highest office was one big oops! Though I am glad he stayed away from the fires and let our firefighters continue to do a great job.

  9. Nancy N. says:

    See, the obvious problem here is that none of Gov. Do-Not’s friends must own firefighting equipment companies, so there is nothing in it for him.

    Now, want to privatize a prison or some healthcare? He’ll get right on THAT.

  10. Merrill says:

    The message here from our state and regional leaders is “Flagler County will never amount to any more than an afterthought!” See “Half of Flagler’s Legislative Delegation Listens to Local Pleas Without Quite Hearing Them”

  11. Mark says:

    Flying all over the state…it’s good to see our tax dollars going to use. I can only imagine the price of jet fuel these days.

  12. ol'sarge says:

    Seriously? Seriously? What he seems to be failing to understand is that every dime FCFR spends out of it’s already nonexistent budget will not be replaced…so, when it is time to provide its’ employees with proper equipment, the money just won’t be there. Is that what Scott is looking for here? People doing an already dangerous job, underfunded and underequipped?? What an unbelievable piece of work this guy is…on a personal note, to see him wearing a Flagler County emblem made me sick…he should be ashamed and so should his supporters.

  13. Anonymous says:

    There’s a k mart sticker still on the shirt.

  14. intheknow says:

    Rick Scott is not interested in getting ANY federal money!!!! He said so himself. That’s why we lost 50,000 jobs on sunrail and high speed rail.

    [Whooops. I stand corrected.]

    Rich Scott is not interested in getting ANY federal money except those Medicare dollars he found a way to pocket. Rob from the old, screw the decrepit. Feed the filthy rich, starve the hungry. That’s a real values guy for you.

  15. Um... says:

    Governor Skeletor left Castle Grayskull long enough to grace us with his presence – I am somehow unmoved by his overwhelming lack of sincerity.

  16. Milek Fallingstaff says:

    Saturate Us With Resources must be code for cut to the bone.

  17. palmcoaster says:

    What a bozo this dude is. Wearing an emergency agency sticker reminds me Bush aviator jacket when he claimed victory in Iraq on that aircraft carrier charade…how many years ago? We just had 5 of our braves killed there and we are still war mongering in Iraq…Scott had the nerve to say no to federal help and that he will monitor …what?….how we get smoked or and burned? So he just flys around looking at the fires and he has no problem with the cost of his transport on us taxpayers now? Why this flying around and looking from above reminds me of Katrina? Do we need to repeat New Orleans Mayor Nagin “get of your a…..s and do something about it”
    Here in the C section of Palm Coast, we endure this evening again the nasty smoke outside.

  18. Jojo says:

    I just hope that the good people of this State and County remember November, 2012. I hope there will be a reckoning at the polls. We need fresh blood because a lot of the representatives we have now have become too comfortable. This is not Florida and Flagler County of the past. You slow you blow. Congressional, State and County elective offices have not taken care of business in Flagler for the citizens living here. Remember in November.

  19. mara says:

    So what exactly did the declaration mean? More ground resources? It sounds like nothing is definite–yet.

    I’m guessing we should still keep doing what we can to help out these firefighters, folks–and keep praying for rain. It sounds like it is possible these guys aren’t going to catch a lot of rest anytime soon :-(

  20. elaygee says:

    If BS were fuel, Scott would spontaneously combust

  21. Wake-Up Call says:

    I don’t blame Governor Scott for not going to the scene of the fires. It unfortunate Commissioner Milissa Holland didn’t recognize the fact that she not only put herself in danger by doing so, but also those fighting the fires. What benefit was it for Mr. Bennett to stop providing aid in putting out the fire at hand, to personally cater to touring Milissa Holland around the site of the fire ?Holland’s visit to the fire scene distracted our fire-fighters, which was dangerous. Why couldn’t she wait until after the fires to assess the situation? I can only ask myself if her distracting the firemen from doing their job to cater to her resulted in the fires increasing in size.

    I thank those firemen who are serving in the field to protect us and our homes. I hope the donations that are being made are reaching you. You are the ones that don’t get recognized in articles like this, but you are not forgotten.

    • Flaglerlive says:

      Wake-up call, Holland is far from the only individual to have gone to the fires. Politicians have been taken out there (Barbara Revels got a tour last Friday with Petito), and news reporters and crews have been trooped out there routinely. Firemen are never interfered with (you hardly see 99 percent of them, since they’re so spread out) and no one is being put in danger–except by the absence of reliable, educated, first-hand information, which your comment somewhat lacks.

  22. John Boy says:

    He should have been taking to the fires and then roasted on a spit, ops, can’t do that as we have laws againsts buring trash.

  23. Goodwillie says:

    No surprise here people… What is a surprise is that a state who continues to live on a fraction of what the rest of the country lives and is so heavily dependent on social services on continues to vote for Republicans.

    God Bless our fire fighters for doing such a remarkable and heroic job, they are our real heroes!

  24. palmcoaster says:

    Well said Pierre!! To Wakeup, Jennifer and the other brain dead, brain washed Tea Party members comments here…and Thank God minority, among us the real concerned with the real facts.

  25. Steve Ricke says:

    This governor is not helping. When reminded of the ’85 and the ’98 situation and he essentially ignores it – you gotta ask yourself- does this guy really care? Skeletor needs to wake up and come to the aid of his state, for Gods’ sake man, it’s on fire you dolt! Act like a governor and do something about it.

  26. Jojo says:

    I watched him on the local news and have to say he looked lost. Had nothing to say of significance which left me asking if he 1) Scott was appraised of the situation, 2) knew anything about the situation, 3) Knew how to handle the situation and, 4) Looked bored and acted like he didn’t want to be here.

  27. Yogi says:

    The article writer says Scott is ineffective but no details. The firefighters haven’t been denied any resources according to the article. In 1998 resources went to where they were needed most. I see no evidence that Flagler is denied anything. The writer’s bias gets in the way of his/her/ reporting.

  28. Pcmomma says:

    We need to recognize and fight for our firefighters. Next time they want to cut their jobs and benefits I hope taxpayers remember that they save lives and their community, not sit around and do nothing. That is what our politicans do.

  29. Patti says:

    Let this be a lesson when it comes to re-elect this moron. He doesn’t care about our county or the folks trying to keep us safe. Typical lies and false promises from him. No money in it for him, so off to Naples. This a-h— needs to be held accountable. We pay his salary. I’m sure he’s nice and cool and breathing clean air right now! Scr– him! Wake up folks and vote his money hungry a– out!!!!! Thank you to everyone who is working so hard to protect us, obviously our gov’t won’t! God Bless you all and may you all be safe!

  30. Kendall says:

    Oh Patti, I don’t know if we can take 3.5 more years of that jackwagon as our governor.

  31. Yogi says:

    Recognize what? Seminole woods was saved today because the fire fighters had everything they needed. It seems as though some people just want to rant rather than recognize the resources are there and the fires are being controlled because Americans are working together. I hope some people aren’t trying the incite the public during a very difficult time. This would not be good.

  32. Gman says:

    “We pay his salary”

    @patti – Scott doesn’t take a salary.

  33. gerry says:

    He shouldn’t take a salary,he isn’t worth sh#t

  34. palmcoaster says:

    Gman where do you get he is not taking a salary…did he say he is a pro bono Governor or is donating it to which entity… Solantic?
    If true he is donating or not taking his salary sure he will get lots of graft by lobbying for his Health Care business, Solantic.

  35. Patti says:

    Even if he claims to not directly take a salary doesn’t even matter. He is still a servant of the community and isn’t acting like one. Seminole Woods was a quick fire and there were resources to handle it. Why wait for the existing fires to get even larger and pose more danger to all the hard workers, when help could be brought in and attack it harder. You think we have all the resources we need…..take a look at some of those trucks….hopefully none will break down in the woods in the middle of the fires or when they are being driven as fast as possible to get to a fire quickly to save someone’s home!!!! I know Kendall…that’s a long time to deal with an irresponsible gov.!

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