Air Force Wildland Fire Center responding to Avon Park AFR wildfire

  • Published
  • By Shannon Carabajal
  • AFCEC Public Affairs

An Air Force Wildland Fire Center team is leveraging internal assets and interagency partnerships to contain the Echo Springs Wildfire, an 8,000-acre wildfire on the Avon Park Air Force Range in Florida. 

Avon Park serves as a bombing range and air ground training complex for the military. 

Currently 25 percent contained, the wildfire started May 17 from range activity and is burning in an area with unexploded ordnance which limits suppression options, according to Tracy Meeks, AFWFC branch chief.  

To contain the fire at the range, located in Polk and Highlands Counties, firefighters are focusing on cutting firebreaks with bulldozers and heavy equipment.  

“Firebreaks create gaps in vegetation and remove fuel from the wildfire’s path to slow or stop the burn,” Meeks explained. 

The AFWFC is the lead agency in the response efforts; the center is supported by strike teams from the Florida Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Firefighters and equipment from AFWFC Wildland Support Modules at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, and Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, are also enroute to assist the efforts. 

The AFWFC is part of the Air Force Civil Engineer Center’s Environmental Directorate at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. WSMs around the country are trained and equipped for wildfire response and management either on a seasonal or full-time basis.  

Robust training, preparation and strong interagency collaborations enable quick responses to wildfires threating Air Force missions, assets and people. Wildland firefighters are also National Wildfire Coordinating Group qualified and always ready to respond to a wildfire. 

“(Our teams) are in a constant state of preparing and training for wildland fire operations. WSMs take proactive measures to mitigate wildfire risk, including prescribed burns and mechanical fuel treatments which reduce combustible materials available to a fire,” Meeks said. 

Additionally, the AFWFC routinely collaborates with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service to focus on fire threats and maximize shared resources.  

“Interagency collaboration is critical to ensuring we can respond to wildfires and take proactive preventive actions. The success of our program relies on those partnerships because they have established expertise in wildland fire management and the core competencies to ensure our program’s success,” Meeks said

“The AFWFC was established through interagency collaboration in order to better prepare the Air Force for these types of events. The quick interagency response to this wildfire, including the Wildland Support Modules is going exactly according to plan,” said Richard Trevino, operations division chief for the AFCEC Environmental Directorate.