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How Flagler County Is Controlling The Public’s Right To Know The Latest On the Fires

| June 10, 2011

Information can go up in smoke, too. (© FlaglerLive)

Information can go up in smoke, too. (© FlaglerLive)

This morning I attended the 9:30 a.m. “stakeholder meeting” on wildfires at the Flagler County Emergency Operations Center. The meeting takes place every morning since the broader emergency response to the wildfires was activated, much in the way that EOC is activated during a hurricane emergency.

There were some 25 to 30 people in there—fire chiefs (including Palm Coast’s), deputy chiefs and captains, several senior lieutenants, the Division of Forestry, the county administrator, two county commissioners—Milissa Holland and Barbara Revels—several members of the Northeast Florida Incident Management team, the so-called “Gray Team” brought in to assist the county with coordination and strategy, and several home or land-owners affected by the Espanola fire. The meeting was also piped out by close-circuit TV to staffers in the county administration building, including constitutional officers. I thought I’d attend, since there is no greater stakeholder than the public’s thirst for the most precise and up to date information about these fires.

Click On:

True enough, the meeting was richly informative—and reassuring. There was an update on each of the fires. The Espanola fire, the largest, had grown by 300 acres to reach 2,800 acres by the previous evening, but was still burning strongly. The White Eagle fire jumped its lines yesterday afternoon but again was kept away from homes by the Palm Coast Fire Department and the Division of Forestry, who threw quick-strike resources at the sudden flare to prevent it from doing damage to anything other than brush (the details were described here). Other fires “have been very good to us,” in Operations Section Chief James Burnsed’s words, meaning they’ve not jumped their containment lines or become unruly.

He described the Volusia, Clay and Duvall resources now helping locally, and how: For example, Clay, Jacksonville and Flagler resources (firefighter units, trucks, engines, etc.) have been combined to form two attack strike forces that are essentially on stand-by at EOC as a rapid-response force to any sudden flare up, whether a new fire or a suddenly unruly one where help is needed. Several similar rapid-deployment forces, particularly ones able to protect homes or other kinds of structures, are being positioned strategically around the county in case fires become threatening to actual property other than brush or trees. That’s what concerns people most, and what officials explained best: the system is in place, and getting honed all the time, not only to control existing fires, but to counter-attack where it matters most: around homes and businesses, should that become necessary. On top of that, help from St. Johns County is one phone call and a brief drive away, as Fire Chief Don Petito is on the phone with those folks daily. Jacksonville has made a similar commitment.

I had not, to this date, heard as detailed and reassuring an explanation connecting one type of firefighting (in the woods) with another (around structures). “I feel pretty confident with what we have today based on the weather,” Burnsed concluded.

The Division of Forestry’s Mike Kuypers spoke next, describing the way the Strawn and Tattoo fires in  southwestern Flagler were being controlled: two difficult fires to access, but Strawn’s bulldozer lines were widened and completed yesterday and tractors moved to Tattoo, completing lines there in late evening. What that means is that both fires have “drivable lines,” enabling firefighters to control them more easily—and freeing a tractor to move to the White Eagle fire or be ready for other needs. An 8-member DOF incident management team is assuming command of the Espanola fire by Saturday, relieving a Flagler team. And yet another strike team of engines is coming in to help mop up various fires other than Espanola. “Knock on wood, Volusia County is pretty quiet, thank goodness,” Kuypers said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to continue that and concentrate on the fires in Flagler and St. Johns in anticipation of lightning starting later this week.”

The floor was opened to questions. County Administrator Craig Coffey asked about the state: when would it be declaring a state of emergency? This was revealed: Last night, an official said, the state forwarded a request for a “presidential” disaster declaration, which would open up Federal Emergency Management Agency resources—and reimbursements down the line, which is key: the county has been spending $40,000 a week in overtime, Palm Coast’s overtime costs are running about 400 hours a week for its professional firefighters, or about $10,000. That overtime would be reimbursed should a state of emergency be declared.

Coffey raised another concern, reflecting the concern on many residents’ minds: “The biggest concern has to do with the wind change. The western wind has been our salvation to this point. If we get an easterly wind and good lightning strikes and we have all our resources deployed, we’ll need some outside resources, not in a couple of days, we’ll need them immediately.”

Bruce Scott, the Gray Team’s deputy incident commander, addressed that concern: Those resources would not be available in a matter of days, but a matter of hours, he said. The plan in place ensures that enough resources are available at least to hold the line in case of a sudden emergency, enabling enough time for additional structure-firefighting equipment to arrive. “The purpose of this meeting really is to bring you up to date, to let everybody in this room know where we’re at, and operations did an outstanding job of that,” Scott continued. “The second part of this meeting is to address concerns. We definitely want to take what you have as concerns, landowners, agency administrators, county commissioners, fire chiefs—anybody that has a concern, something we’re not addressing, I want to know about it so we can put a process in place to make it better. So if you don’t feel comfortable in an open forum, when this meeting adjourns, grab a hold of me, have a discussion, and I can promise you when we go into our command and general staff meeting here in just a few minutes we’ll do what we can to address it.”

Scott told Holland, who asked a question about when and how the county’s overtime costs would be reimbursed, how the incident management team’s presence is here also to ensure that help is provided literally down to the necessary paperwork required to make those reimbursements a certainty: “That is another reason why this management team is here. To make sure that the documentation is in place, that we have an instant action plan every day that shows the use of those resources, so in the event that we do get a declaration and funding does become available, that we’ll have all the paperwork in order and the documentation in order to go back to that point and start recouping some of the county’s money. We want to be good stewards. As an instant management team, our job is to make sure not only are we getting operations everything they need, but we’re also being stewards of your money, and we want to make sure we’re not wasting it, and we want to make sure we’re accounting for what we do.”

Music even to tea partiers’ ears—but more to the point: key information about the financial underpinnings of what’s turning into a seriously expensive operation, and that taxpayers will be paying for over the next several weeks, possibly months. The reassurances were not just about fighting fires, but about taking care of the county’s kitty. I had not previously quite heard that level of detail and explanation about the incident management team’s capabilities, either—nor had it occurred to me as a reporter to make the connection between firefighting muscle and bean-counting: the two are apparently a joint task force through that incident management team, to Flagler’s benefit, although to be fair, Palm Coast’s fire department has also been keeping very close track of its paperwork, going back to the first week of May, to make sure that those reimbursements are there should the county get its disaster declaration.

“I really want to make sure that everybody understands that there’s a lot of people working really, really hard, to make sure that we don’t lose houses, that we mitigate as much as possible damage to timber,” Scott concluded. “There’s a lot of folks out there working hard from a lot of different agencies, a lot of commitment from a lot of people, and we thank you.”

Flagler Fire Chief Don Petito then declared himself “the luckiest department head in the county because of the work that my employees are doing. I can tell you that I do have the best employees. And I want to let everybody know that we have some great friends out there,” meaning neighboring counties’ fire departments. “But one of the concerns that I heard out there is that I’ve been removed from the process or that county fire department’s been removed from the process, and I want to dispel that rumor as much as I can. The team is here to help us. I still have a fire department to run, we still run thousands of EMS calls. During the break-out of the Espanola fire, we had a house fire come in at the same exact time. So we had fire trucks running every which direction. There still needs to be somebody to coordinate all that. So I’m definitely not removed from the process, I’m still running the fire department, and the team that’s here is here to assist us, organize this chaos that’s going on right now.”

He reminded the assembly the extent to which various counties—and various county departments within Flagler County—are contributing, from fleet department repairmen going out to fire scenes to repair engines to fuel trucks fueling on the line to what began to sound like a cooperative assembly line of help. (This wasn’t part of the meeting, but it’s worth mentioning: the school board also contributed today, after it was asked to lend a couple of pick up trucks and other resources.)

Mark Spalding, a property owner whose woods are in the Espanola fire’s scopes, then asked to speak—only to commend the teams in the field. “I’ve heard it said—you can’t believe what these people are going through. This stuff, it’s nasty, dry, hot, smoky, you name it.” But the resources have been there, he said, and the help has been inspiring: “to watch these people work is an art,” he said.

Editor’s Blog

The meeting was soon adjourned. And that was it: about 25 minutes of hard, important, detailed, extremely valuable information, much of it connecting dots that no news release has done so far—nor any reports, on FlaglerLive or elsewhere, has done—along with some well-deserved back-patting. There cannot be enough of that, considering the hell these men and women are going through. I was grateful to Petito and his hardest-working deputy for showing me first hand last week what the fires were doing to the county. I was just as grateful to be able to hear the strategists, coordinators and  tacticians behind the firefighting, providing as accurate and first-hand information—with incredible succinctness, efficiency and eloquence, I should add—as they did this morning.

This is what the public needs to hear. This is what makes for infallible credibility and trust in our agencies, particularly our public safety agencies. This is what reassures and lifts morale, and what makes one proud of the organizations and the people in place to do thankless, dangerous and often dispiriting work. I wish the “stakeholder meeting” had been piped out to the whole county to see and hear, C-Span style, not just to government buildings, because it would certainly get a lot of interest, and it would put down a great deal of false rumors, dispel fears, and even build pride in what our tax-dollars are paying for—and what these public buildings, at times derided for their extravagance, are doing for us.

Good thing they call them “stakeholders meetings,” too: there are no more important stakeholders than the public at large. I’d be a fool not to cover these meetings every morning.

So you can imagine my surprise—and yes, my indignation, which was shared by many—over what happened next.

Troy Harper, the county’s emergency operations chief, approached me, with John Ward, the Clay County-based public information officer (PIO) for the incident team in tow. Troy has always been gracious with information before, and personally gracious to me, so this salvo took me by surprise.

“Tomorrow,” he told me, “this meeting will be closed for the media. It’s really just a stakeholders’ meeting with those who have a vested interest—the property owners, the cities, the counties, elected officials, and things of that sort. That’s the message that came from the incident commander. County administrator has endorsed it. So tomorrow unfortunately we won’t be able to have you in this meeting.”

“But if you’ve got landowners and county commissioners,” I began, or rather babbled, before he cut me off.

“They have a vested interest,” Troy said. “It’ll be a closed meeting.”

“But we have a vested interest, too–.” He cut me off again.

“It’ll be a closed meeting, and there will be a deputy here in the room,” he said.

That little threat was a bit of a stunner, whatever Troy’s patronizing words that followed: “It’s nothing against you, don’t take that personally, you know I’ve been good to you.”

“But what was said today that shouldn’t be known?”


“Why would you close it then?”

“It’s at the request of the incident management team,” he said, “and the county manager [sic.] has endorsed it.”

Actually, it’s a directive from Coffey, the county administrator, who told me he’d “consulted” with his team, including Troy, the PIO, Bruce Scott and Don Petito. Petito has been among the most accessible sources for immediate information, any time of day or night.

Both county commissioners present were surprised—and in Holland’s case, incensed: “I don’t understand his logic at times, and I certainly don’t understand his reasoning,” Holland said of Coffey, “not to mention this is a public facility, this is paid for with public dollars, this isn’t private business.” This being not just the meeting, but the substance of the meeting. Alan Peterson, chairman of the commission, was not at the meeting but after initially finding reason to dispute Coffey’s decision, he warmed to it, saying the “stakeholders” can have their time at 9:30, the press later, which was also the Palm Coast Observer’s John Walsh’s take after I spoke with him.

To be clear: there are several staff meetings, including tactical and operational and other kind of meetings, at EOC during the day, that are no one’s business, necessarily. They have every right to be closed, and no one is pressing for those to be open. But the “stakeholder” meeting is different, even by its own definition, and by its broad accessibility, which appears to exclude the press specifically, while including every government official and her sister-in-law under the sun. To be just as clear:  this is not a sunshine-law issue (though the piping of the meeting to constitutional officers and the broader administration building staff, and the inclusion of elected officials, sheds more than a few rays of yellow in the grayish area). It is certainly a press-access issue in the midst of the most important public matter unraveling now. If the strictest reading of the law is on Coffey’s side, logic, good sense, and respect for the public’s right to know are not. Coffey is not only showing contempt for access to information he doesn’t in one way or another control. He’s mistrusting firefighters to speak or dole out information without hand-holding.

But that’s nothing new with Flagler County, where many parts of local government seem to think that the public it serves are barely on a need-to-know basis, if that.

Near day’s end Coffey told me he’d set up a daily 11 a.m. press conference, beginning Saturday, which is nice but literally not the whole story. News conferences are a poor translation of reality. I avoid them like I avoid most PIOs (the good ones are as rare as perfect pearls). The value of the 9:30 meeting is that it’s unvarnished, unfiltered, un-staged, real-time information that no PIO nor press conference can replicate. That’s why you’ll see commissioners at that meeting, not at press conferences. Take today’s news release and what’s posted on it’s mostly old news, and barely a fraction of the information in this morning’s meeting. (And nothing about the state emergency declaration, which people are asking about. More on that soon.)

The fires will go on, so will the reporting. But expect to see a hell of a lot more unnamed sourced as far as the fires are concerned: they’re out there, in the trenches, they know what they’re talking about, they’re not fond of the county’s Big Brother act, and they like the public to know what’s going on. Too bad they must go unnamed—or that much of the raw, morale-lifting, rumor-busting stuff of that 9:30 meeting will never cross the closed-circuitry of administrative contempt and control.

–Pierre Tristam

Late-night fire update from the trenches (11:32 p.m.): The fires today behaved: no break-outs, no fires crossing fire lines, not a single new fire: an unusually fortunate days, relative to the week just ending. But the next two days portend high winds, which might create difficult conditions, and Monday, a wind shift is in the forecast. Until now, winds have been blowing from the east, pushing west. That will change, blowing smoke–and who knows what else–toward Palm Coast.

29 Responses for “How Flagler County Is Controlling The Public’s Right To Know The Latest On the Fires”

  1. Jojo says:

    What does Craig Coffey, the County Administrator have to hide? So, Coffey gets two bodyguards. Troy Harper and John Ward to verbally threaten the Press with, “There will be a Deputy here in the room tomorrow.” Why the umbra of the meeting at 9:30. This is the kind of Mickey Mouse nonsense the citizens of Flagler County don’t need. Why the secrecy with this meeting, namely to the Press that is doing a great service to keep us all abreast of the latest information available to the public. To be honest with you, the information I get first is not from the penumbra of the EOC but rather from FlaglerLive, who really does a better job of reporting and disseminating information faster in Flagler County. Thank you FlaglerLive.
    Keep up the great work you provide.

  2. Tim Wilkinson says:

    Just what is a “stakeholder”?
    Is there a min. amount of land that qualifies?

  3. elaygee says:

    Dope De Doh County business as usual

  4. Joe says:

    Power and Ego’s is what it seems to be all about, when are the people of this county going to wake up and realize that these people work for us? When are the people of this county going to wake up and send that message? Can you imagine having an employee who you send on a job, then ask about the work and progress he/she were accomplishing on it and get this response…. Sorry boss, you are on a need to basis…. WTF!!!

  5. Joe says:

    Craig really needs to wake up and smell the Coffey!!!

  6. palmcoaster says:

    This is fascist censorship at its best. About same that took place in 1998 with Governor Lawton Chiles, not declaring state of emergency in time and then we lost about 90 homes in Palm Coast. Information to us the residents, was very restricted then also, until the sheriff deputies came knocking our doors to evacuate. Neither our Palm Coast firefighter standing frustrated with their idle equipment in the corner of Rte one and Matanzas Pkwy “under orders” not to enter those vacant parcels, knew how bad was the smoky wall slowly advancing towards Palm Coast from the “landowners vacant parcels west of Rte 1” with no equipment or manpower on sight inside those vacant parcels trying to stop it right there. I remember like was today, I was asking those firefighters what about bringing a bulldozer clearing a wide patch inside those lands, to stop the fires visible still miles away from Rte 1. Their reply was they had to wait because without heavy equipment for clearing was not possible for their engines to work and “all following orders” They were hoping that the four lane Rte 1 will be the barrier. Sadly was not. Nothing was done and when after couple of days the flames approached faster with a change in the wind the heat was so intense and flames so tall, that jumped over Rte 1 into Matanzas Woods. Such an injustice. Sorry, but to me the truth is that here these “good old boys” call the shots against the safety of our populated coastal areas. Remember that in Spanola and maybe more land on fire now, also is owned by corporate mogul Ryoneer. These corporations always have the upper hand, that maybe why the censorship. If they will be held responsible to pay for the expense to fight these fires when by someone carelessness in their properties start one…for sure wildfires will be reduced. If I cause a fire in my property and spread to the neighboring homes, for sure they will bill the insurer of my house, you bet. Then why not the landowners as well? Why the different bias standards? I suspect that Coffey at this point, is receiving orders from above and no one wants to loose their jobs over these fires. If so he should let us know, so he will be, no escape goat then.
    No other reason for this censure against the freedom of information act that we, the potential victims have the right to be given.

  7. Rob says:

    I served on the Flagler County 1998 Citizens Wildfire Task Force. One of the bigest complaints that we heard from residents of the county was the lack of accurate information.

  8. Dorothea says:

    Palmcoaster, while I agree with almost everything that you said, I do disagree with you on your blame of Governor Lawton Chile to call a state of emergency. The emergency evacuation of all of Flagler County was horrific and disorganized. However, the suddenness of the resurgence of this fire, the threat of the sheriff’s department getting burned to the ground (meaning that inmates had to be evacuated and 911 going up with it), and the general confusion could mostly be blamed on the fire and wind itself. Roads, like Route 100 were supposed to be made one-way west. Only Putnam County, with fire threats of its own, did not cooperate.

    The biggest man made problem was the total lack of communication with the general public. No one knew where to go. The Humane Society made a valiant effort to collect hundred of pets at the fairgrounds until the fire threatened the fairgrounds. At that time pets were not allowed in shelters and many refused to leave without them. People could be seen running down Route 1 leading horses to the fairgrounds where there was no longer any shelter. Many pets ended up at the Alachua and St Johns County shelters. Spanish speaking residents would not get any help with translating what little they were told. Some people did not leave until the last moment because they believed they could save their homes with a garden house. By the time most reaized that this was the real deal, all roads west and north were totally blocked with a monsterous traffic jam. It was mass confusion all around. However, the National Guard and Governor Chiles were in Flagler County.

    But from this confusion, the powers that be should have learned that communication with the public is essential. Refusing admittance to the press at these meetings just shows that they will never learn.

  9. lawabidingcitizen says:

    Good luck on Obama declaring a state of emergency in Florida now that we have a Republican governor. Remember what he said, “he keeps score.”

  10. palmcoaster says:

    I am sorry Dorothea to disagree with you regarding late Governor Chiles. While myself watching impotent those wildfires slowly advancing for days west of Rte 1 and Matanzas Parkway, is what proofs,that he was dilatory in declaring the state of emergency in time and was over funds to pay for it all. I was also told that, by some frustrated firefighters not allowed to enter those vacant lands west of Rte 1, because the lack of the declaration is that the Department of Forestry did not supply the heavy equipment (backhoes, tank helicopters, etc) vital to do a land clearing in those vacant lands for our firefighters to get their engines thru while preventing with a wide clearing the advance of the flames and the help from the air as well. By the way I do not recall since then Chiles being here neither I saw any National Guard around anywhere, while we were being evacuated from Matanzas Woods, escaping thru PC Parkway waiting to go thru the Hammock Bridge only way allowed. No one even directing the bottled traffic in P.C Parkway waiting to go thru the Hammock Bridge. This issue is not a GOP or DNC one, like in most nowadays the special interest control anyone at the helm that is the reason for censure. If you find any proof of that mentioned presence and happens that was a coincidence that I missed them, please make it available to us. Could be that maybe they showed up after we burned? I was not here then for two days and when back home I was too upset to watch the news.

  11. cyd says:

    Anything we can do to assist you in getting this opened back up? I’d be more than happy to call/email or whatever. Wow..Flagler Enterprise one day and then the fire commission the next. What the heck…

  12. palmcoaster says:

    Dorothea historical facts show:
    Chiles called the National Guard help on a Sunday when for days the week before we stared at the fire advancing from west of Rte 1 inside and miles away in those vacant lands. He visited after we burned.
    Here the comments of then commissioners to upset residents of burned homes, regarding whom to blame and totally correct:
    For some magical pressure of the ones in control….a repeat over and over.

  13. tulip says:

    From what I understand, after each meeting there would be a press conference where any member of the press can ask whatever they choose and get an answer, and then write a report in the newspaper or wherever. I have no problem with that, just as long as the RESIDENTS are kept up to date on the fires. I don’t see why it would matter whether the press sat in on the meetings, or had a press conference afterwards.

  14. Dorothea says:

    Palmcoaster, I was working entirely on memory. Thanks for doing the research. The 1998 fire was the result of a number of fires that converged due to winds. They began in early May. Flagler County was evacuated in July. My point is that once a fire gets into motion as this one did, it jumps from tree to tree, crosses roads, and, as it did in 1985, it can cross the Intracoastal. I doubt that any clearing would have stopped it. Blaming politicians for acts of nature seems pointless. But if those politicians don’t learn from the experience, they deserve all the blame they get.

    Palm Coast, in fact, did learn. They modernized their equipment and began preparing for similar emergencies. Residents were also more motivated to break off and become a city. If there is any one reason to fear the blockhead mentality (forgive the politics) of the low tax propronents, it is the likelihood that they would not only oppose keeping our emergency services up-to-date, they would reduce the number of emergency responders. I believe that FireFlight, the county helicopter, was purchased as a fire fighting tool, not a crime fighting tool or air ambulance.

    Your complaint that there was no one directing traffic is also unjustified. Just exactly how big do you think the FCSO was in 1998? Not big enough to handle a mass evacuation. They were stretched to the limit and did the best they could.

    Which gets me back to my main point. What was most lacking was communication. Here we have reporters, the press, trying to fix the same problem, getting shut out. Now I can blame politicians. Too many in charge of Flagler County government think that the less citizens know the better off they will be. Big brother is watching out for you, so don’t bother us. Experience hasn’t taught them a damned thing.

  15. Binky says:

    I remember in 98 the way we got official word was over the TV (we were leaving anyway). The tv went to no picture just snow and a voice came over saying get out now…or something like that.

  16. Jojo says:

    Tulip, here it is in a nutshell for you. Reads to me like we don’t want your kind (The Press)!

    “Tomorrow,” he told me, “this meeting will be closed for the media. It’s really just a stakeholders’ meeting with those who have a vested interest—the property owners, the cities, the counties, elected officials, and things of that sort. That’s the message that came from the incident commander. County administrator has endorsed it. So tomorrow unfortunately we won’t be able to have you in this meeting.”

  17. Phil McElrath says:

    I don’t see how this reporter’s ability to do his job was inhibited, or how any information was held from the public by him being denied space in a room where a meeting was being held. This meeting was viewable in other parts of the building. This was not a “Press Conference”. It was a “Stakeholders Meeting”. Mr. Tristam’s self appointed position of Stakeholder, or Representative of some other Stakeholders begs an examination of Mr. Tristam’s true motives.

    By the reporters own words, “I thought I’d attend, since there is no greater stakeholder than the public’s thirst for the most precise and up to date information about these fires.” he seems to think it OK to invite himself into whatever venue HE desires, or HE deems appropriate.

    Some “most precise” and “up to date information” can be found in many local sources, including the County’s own website.

    If Mr. Tristam wants to find fault with County Government, he should do us all a favor and report on real issues, using facts, public record, and verifiable sources. That can be done with out crashing meetings he has no need to attend, and being in the way of professionals trying to get a job done.

    Phil McElrath
    Palm Coast

  18. Sherry Epley says:

    Excuse me. . . when the press is excluded from ANY meeting, then WE (the ones the press educates) are excluded. Pierre Tristam, and all other “good” reporters, are our eyes and ears on the world. I, for one, do not want merely white washed press releases, or reports from press conferences where the questions are completely anticipated and the replies are polished and canned. The excellent investigative journalism we have come to rely on from Flager Live is greatly hampered by any “closed meetings”, which essentially are the roots of fascism.

  19. Dorothea says:

    Sherry, good post. I had to read Mr. McElrath’s comment a couple of times to make sure I was reading it correctly. McElrath needs to check out the US and the Florida Constitutions. While other nations are fighting for their right to an unfettered press, media, and internet, McElrath is actively supporting censoring them here in the United States.

  20. Jojo says:

    Would appear more like a “good Ole Boys Club” than a “Stakeholders” Meeting. Am I being too noisy to ask what a “Stakeholders” Meeting is? I mean, do I qualify to be a member? Do I have rights and privileges to be at this meeting? If not, why? What do you have to do or be certified in to be a member? Does owning a home in Flagler County allow me to go straight to the meeting? Is there a yearly membership fee? If I am a member, do I have a right to speak and vote at these meetings? How did “Stakeholders” meetings incorporate? What are the benefits of membership other than to keep quite? Are we allowed to pledge allegiance to the United States of America before the meeting begins? Are minutes taken of these meetings? Is there a Board, chain-of-command or, just a pecking order with roots in the community?

  21. Justice for All says:

    Remember when the Emergency Operations Center was built – supposed to be equipped with state of the art communications technology. Yet whenever there are weather alters, such as TORNADO WARNINGS, which we’ve had, the information on the County and City channels consists of reruns of public hearings, and interviews of local personalities. Just what happened to those dollars – swept up into construction of Frog Palace?

    Don’t forget – the more regional government becomes, the less responsive it is.

  22. palmcoaster says:

    Is Phil Mc Elrath a stake holder? Well if so then, what gives you the privilege to judge our open information good reporters and media?. Who the heck you think you are to support censorship of information to us, all while we are the ones to pay the bills? We lost here 176 houses or more in Palm Coast in 1985 and another 90 plus in 1998 and both times the very well shut lid on public information is what prevailed as well. Your “keep them ignorant and bake them”approach for any special interest that you may want to benefit from…won’t work this time. We wisen up.

  23. John Smith says:

    These people that say they know whats going on right now where not here in 85, 98 and could have seen how these fires can get out of control quik. We pretty much had the same press as back then except for the Flagler Live that is more interested in getting the info out there than the others. In 85 the fires burned to the beach south of town, in 98 the fires burned home after home in PC. Well (HELLO) its 11 and PC has BIG TIME developed in all the areas that burned since that time. The Beach and Bunnel and PC seem to me to be the stakeholders in this fire season. This is just another way the county can try and take over the cities decision making by holding this info from them until something is going to happen then they can step up and say see we are here for you. It is alot of EGO on there part. NO houses have burned yet so lets wait until they start burning to let the people in on whats going on.

  24. nina says:

    If the disaster evacuation traffic during the ’98 fires was bad, how will we ever manage to move so many more residents now in 2011 should that become necessary? For many of us here in Palm Coast , horrendous traffic snarls are nothing more than a bad memory and something we’d rather not ever have to experience again. The thought of escaping a fast moving fire by joining a slow moving traffic jam is not very appealing to me. Can our evacuation routes realistically handle Palm Coast’s population explosion?

  25. curious says:

    How come the Fire Departments in Bunnell and Flagler Beach are not mentioned? Also, Sunshine Law violation exists if closed meeting and two or more elected officials are there……

  26. Merrill Shapiro says:

    Sherry, Dorothea and their supporters deserve a standing ovation, even if they don’t tell the entire story. The entire story is never complete until the ultimate stakeholders names are invoked! Those ultimate stakeholders not only pay for the very well-deserved salaries of the firefighters, their pensions, their insurance, but also pay for their equipment, their training and all they do, whether they be city, county, regional or state Department of Forestry firefighters.

    Coincidentally, those same ultimate stakeholders who pay to fight these fires, protect our homes and business, our schools and our recreation centers, also pay the salaries of Mr. Coffey, Mr. Harper, and the members of the county commission. The ultimate stakeholders pay for their offices, the heating, cooling and lighting of those offices, the computers, the photocopiers, the paper and the paperclips they use as well.

    Those ultimate stakeholders include Sherry, Dorothea, JoJo and even you, Mr. McElrath. We’re the taxpayers of this county and we depend on Pierre Tristam to let us know that we’re getting what we’ve paid for.

  27. Jack Howell says:

    Thank goodness we have a member of the print media (Pierre Tristam) who can tell it like it is! We need more like him to keep us better informed than the NJ and PCO. I’m tired of their lame and directed coverage of what is going on behind the close doors of the power brokers in Flagler County.

  28. AnotherReader says:

    I have been listening to residents complain about the delay of information, too. Thanks Pierre for letting us know what is going on.

  29. mike says:

    imagine what the country would be like if reporters were more like pierre!
    cuts through the propaganda, pr stunts, and think tanks! oh and whitehouse memos.
    sounds to me like these public officials have something to hide.
    maybe in the closed meeting they talk about letting the fire burn longer to make more money and/or getting their sacred emer. declared

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