Flagler County, FL (June 18, 2021) – The Financial Services Department is on fire, as Financial Analyst Amanda Gilbert and Senior Procurement Analyst Shannon Nolan expand on their burning desire to safeguard Flagler County’s green assets by becoming Certified Wildland Firefighters. The certification issued through the Florida Forest Service allows them to work on prescribed fires.

“It was so interesting listening to Tim Telfer talk about prescribed fire, I started pestering him to learn more about it,” Gilbert said. “The whole Land Management team (Telfer, Mike Lagasse, Michael Orlando, and Robert Detherow) have taught us so much, and they deserve so much credit for helping to quickly bring us up to their level.”

Telfer – Resiliency and Resource Stewardship Manager – gave a thumbs-up to the notion of having two women from another department cross-train to work as “prescribed burners” on the team. He invited Gilbert and Nolan out on a burn after recognizing their sincere curiosity and interest.

Shannon Nolan/Flagler County

“Before formally bringing them into the team we wanted to test them and make sure they were able and willing to deal the challenges that prescribed fire brings, like extreme heat and prolonged physical stress,” Telfer said. “Under those conditions, you still have to still monitor changes in the fuel types and loads, as well as any changes in weather. These are the two primary factors that lead to changes in fire behavior.”

Both Gilbert and Nolan exhibited that they could continue to think clearly and make good decisions while fatigued and under stress.

“However what made me enthusiastic about their potential was after the fire. Without complaint, they both jumped in and participated in the necessary post fire ‘mop up’ operations,” Telfer said. “Mop up is a very long process of making sure the fire is completely out – that the fire is not going to reignite and become a wildfire threat.”

Prescribed Fire Program Supervisor Michael Orlando was excited to add the new members to the prescribed fire team.

“Their dedication to seek out the necessary training on their own and make their schedules work while not missing a beat is something to be recognized,” he said. “Prescribed fire in Florida can be a very rigorous task involving long days up to 16 hours with little to no breaks. But you wouldn’t know it as these two both have smiles on their face the entire time.”

Amanda Gilbert/Flagler County

Nolan, who has worked six prescribed fires as part of the Flagler County team, had the privilege on April 30 of working the first aerial-ignition prescribed fire at Princess Place Preserve.

“This is so cool. I am thrilled to be part of it,” she said at the time while taking a momentary break to shoot video footage on her phone of the county’s FireFlight helicopter, piloted by Flight Operations Chief Dana Morris, positioning to release spheres about the size of ping pong balls that create a chemical reaction to start the fire.

The work isn’t for the faint of heart. It requires more than 40 hours of coursework and dedication to get certified – not to mention hard manual labor working a burn while suited up from head to toe in fire protective gear that can cause blood sugar and hydration levels to plummet.

“I have always been interested in conservation,” Nolan said. “Being a part of promoting healthy ecology for wildlife and native plants has been really rewarding and exciting – especially when helicopters are involved – but cross-training with Land Management department has been the best experience thus far.”

Gilbert, whose work on the county budget meant she could only squeeze in time to work three prescribed fires agrees.

“Our burn team is an incredibly amazing, cohesive, and hard working group of people who are doing great work for the environment, and I am so honored and thankful to be a part of it,” she said. “They invited us and welcomed us. That encouragement was amplified once we showed that we were truly not only interested, but capable”

Both women thank Financial Services Director John Brower for being flexible and open-minded. Nolan noted that her immediate supervisor, Purchasing Manager Holly Durrance, has also been very supportive.

“Our team is always looking to help other departments so when the opportunity arose to support the important work Tim and his team are doing, I was not surprised that Shannon and Amanda jumped at the chance,” Brower said. “They represent the best of what our county has to offer, and I’m proud to work with them each and every day.”

Using prescribed fire to manage natural resources is part of state law.

Florida Statute 590.01 spells out that the “Florida Forest Service shall provide leadership and direction in the evaluation, coordination, allocation of resources, and monitoring of wildfire management and protection. The Florida Forest Service shall promote natural resource management and fuel reduction through the use of prescribed fire and other fuel reduction measures.”

Chapter 590.125(3) states in part: “Most of Florida’s natural communities require periodic fire for maintenance of their ecological integrity. Prescribed burning is essential to the perpetuation, restoration, and management of many plant and animal communities. Significant loss of the state’s biological diversity will occur if fire is excluded from fire dependent systems…”

Media Release: Flagler County, Julie Murphy, MPIO

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