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Video Tour: Lt. Richard Bennett Takes You Into the Heart of the Espanola Fire

| June 9, 2011

Edge of the inferno: the western boundary of the Espanola fire at mid-day Monday, with fire immediately behind that ridge of trees. The trees would soon be gone. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Lt. Richard Bennett is the Flagler County Fire Department’s operations chief on all the half dozen active forest fires devouring parts of the county for the past several weeks. He coordinates the department’s forces, ensuring that units are where they have to be, that they have what they need, and that they’re working in unison with other units spread around the same fire or at other fires.

Bennett also patrols the fires, as does Fire Chief Don Petito, from ground and air, using weather and ground analysis to stay ahead of the blazes in order to control them, when–as in the Espanola fire–they cannot be contained. The Espanola fire is the county’s largest, most dangerous, and least predictable. At 1,500 acres on Monday, it was still growing, and may reach double that size before it’s through. There was inaccurate information today that firefighters had evacuated the fire. They had only been briefly pulled away from the southern end of the fire around midnight, where the situation got too dangerous, were repositioned at other edges of the fire, and returned to its southern end later.

“They didn’t evacuate the fire,” Bennett said. “We pulled the firefighters off the line because it was too dangerous to fight–for a little bit. They went back to the fire. That got blown out of proportion a little bit.”

On Monday, at midday, the Espanola fire’s western front, where it was advancing slowly, was teeming with personnel from the Flagler County Fire Department, the Florida Division of Forestry, the Flagler County Public Works Department, whose men were digging tractor lines, its fleet management department, whose men were bringing fuel to working crews, and even Florida’s park services division.

Bennett took FlaglerLive inside the fire’s perimeter to show the devastation the fire has caused in the last 24 hours and the danger it poses to firefighters as trees, weakened from the roots, are falling all over the forest and along the fireline–along roads–endangering personnel without warning. At one point, as Bennett spoke while surveying the edge of the fire on east Grade Road, a road on a private property that fire fighters hoped would be the end of the line for the fire, a pine tree crashed across the road, some 120 feet away.

A more detailed account of the Espanola fire and other fires, along with an extensive photo gallery illustrating today’s advances of the fire, will post later. Here’s Lt. Bennett explaining the extent of the Espanola fire and what firefighters have been doing to try to stay ahead of it. (Click on the expansion quadrant at the lower right of the video for larger view.)

Inside the Espanola Fire
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12 Responses for “Video Tour: Lt. Richard Bennett Takes You Into the Heart of the Espanola Fire”

  1. Steve Wood says:

    That was a good job Rich. Wished we could give you more help from the beach.

  2. palmcoaster says:

    Our firefighters bravely fighting these fires and this Governor wants to cut public employees jobs, pension benefits, etc? Smoke affects most of the USA now. Hope fires can be controlled and finally we could get some rain.

  3. Heather Beaven says:

    Flagler’s finest… we are grateful to have them and Lt. Bennett is an exceptional leader!

  4. Gator says:

    I agree, they certainly don’t get paid enough for this hot, demanding & dirty job. My thanks to each & every one of them!

  5. Shane Wood says:

    First off, Thank You FlaglerLive for showing everyone around here what is going on out on the lines. The past few days since the smoke has drifted back to the east people who didn’t know anything of this magnitude was going on do now. This was a great video. Richard did a great job explaining what is happening and how the varibles can change the fire and tactics used in the blink of an eye. It takes a enormous group effort to combat something of this magnitude. Not only the Espanola Fire, but the other ones that are burning and after the lightning yesterday afternoon, the new ones that will pop up. As Richard said, we need tons of rain. RAIN, not the afternoon thunderstorms that bring lightning and start more fires… Thanks to ALL of the resources locally that are helping fight the fires, and the state resources that have come in to help. Stay Safe and keep up the great work.

  6. Tish says:

    Very nice job!
    Be safe!!

    Tish, Charles, Trey and JD

  7. Totally crazy says:

    Talk about a nice job, I got to hand it to station 62 in bunnell!!! They are a full volunteer station and have been busting their butts for nothing but lunch and dinner! Their chief has done an outstanding job and continued to work hard through all of this aside from running his personal buisiness. Department of forestry has requested station 62 to stay and help for every night back burn so far. That must say something about those guys! Brush fire gurus! Thanks for all your free hard work and help and keeping us safe!! Kudos!!!

  8. palmcoaster says:

    We should all collaborate with something for our Bunnell and all other volunteer firefighters in appreciation at least. Any ideas anyone? What a super hard volunteer work!

  9. CindyD says:

    Stay safe out there everyone. Thanks for all you do.

  10. Ron Tittle says:

    It’s amazing to see the hard work and professionalism of our local firefighters as well as the Division of Forestry. The Florida National Guard will join the fight this week too. It certainly takes a lot of personnel, equipment and resources to combat these disasters. We’re all a team to protect our homeland.

  11. Sarah Casey says:

    Thanks guys! You guys are doing an amazing job and I hope you all come home safe. Some of my friends are out working the fires and they are tired, but toughing it out. I am very proud of all of the brave men and women out working these fires to keep Florida from completely burning. Keep up the good work guys.

  12. Nick says:

    Is any volunteer help needed to help work on the fire? I am not experienced, but am available for help.
    Please email me. Thanks. Nick

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