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For Immediate Release

May 28, 2014

Memorial Day Fires Part 5:
Avalon Hangar tests resources
The days and weeks around the Memorial Day Holiday traditionally produce some of the larger
and more difficult wildfires for the Florida Forest Services Blackwater District. This is the fifth part
in a six-part series looking back at some of the more memorable fire events that have occurred
around the holiday in the past few years.
AVALON HANGAR FIRE, May 29, 2013: With resources spread thin battling a series of fires on
the north end of Santa Rosa County, the last thing Florida Forest Service firefighters needed on May
29, 2013 was another one especially on the Garcon Point peninsula. Well, they got it.
Garcon Point is a notorious strip of land where residential development is mixed in with volatile
fuels and thick, muddy terrain. It has been home to some of the more difficult fires in our three-
county district for as long as anyone can recall and this is the second fire in this series that has taken
place on the point.
The Avalon Hangar Fire (155 acres) started just west of Garcon Point Road near the intersection
with Avalon Boulevard. Within 25 minutes of receiving the call, the initial attack unit had a line
around the fire. Given the 15 mph winds, he radioed to the dispatch center that the line was unlikely
to hold. He was right. The stiff southeast breeze carried sparks and embers across Avalon Boulevard
and into 500 acres of grass and pine trees. It was time for more tractors.
As dry as it was that day, one line isnt likely to hold, said Ashley Baxley, a Senior Forest Ranger
for Blackwater Forestry Center and initial Division Supervisor and second Incident Commander on
the fire. It held for a little while at the road but it was spotting 200-300 feet that day. Its all light,
flashy fuels with galberry and yaupon down there so it takes a lot to stop the fire.
Joe Zwierzchowski
Information Officer/Wildfire Mitigation Specialist
Florida Forest Service Blackwater Forestry Center
E-mail: Joe.Zwierzchowski@freshfromflorida.com
Cellular: 850-206-2675
Office: 850-957-6140 ext 127

The next few tractors on scene had their hands full
trying to contain the fire as it advanced north and west
toward Garcon Field airport and the homes on Michael
Drive north of there. As crews became available from
other parts of the district, they were funneled toward
Garcon and the Avalon Hangar Fire.
Garcon Field the origin for the hangar part of the fires
name proved to be crucial in stopping the fire. Often
times, a natural or manmade barrier such as a river, creek
or highway or in this case an airstrip provides wildland
firefighters and their structure firefighter counterparts a
better vantage point to stop the fire.
If that airfield wasnt there, I dont know if we wouldve
stopped as quick, Baxley said. it gave the structure guys
access to help cool the head of the fire down and allowed
a good holding point.
By the end of the night some seven hours later there
were 10 tractor/plow units from Escambia and Santa Rosa
counties as well as the neighboring Chipola District on
scene, two brush trucks, a myriad of overhead personnel
as well as a helicopter.
The helicopter played a key role in stopping the fire as the
pilot was able to use nearby water ways and ponds to dip
water into a 300-gallon bucket and help slow the fires
progress by dousing hot spots ahead of the tractors. On
this fire, the helicopter made 50 drops in less than 2
Its almost mandatory (to have a helicopter) down
there, Baxley said. It can work in a couple of ways. The
pilot can drop water on the head of the fire to cool it and
Avalon Hangar
WHEN: May 29, 2013
WHERE: Avalon Blvd, Santa
Rosa County
DURATION: 12 days
SIZE: 155 acres
CAUSE: Incendiary (arson).
While no physical evidence
linking this fire to an arsonist
was found, sometimes the
lack of evidence helps point
firefighters to the cause by
process of elimination. With
no lightning, no debris burns
and no signs of equipment
cause in the vicinity, the only
likely cause could be arson.
10 tractor/plow units
Six overhead personnel
Two Brush trucks
One helicopter
difficult for investigators and
firefighters to prove. Short of
catching someone in the act
or a full confession, much of
the evidence is destroyed in
the fire and the cases go cold.
If you have a tip on a possible
woods arson case, please call
the Arson Alert Hotline at
1-800-342-5869. You might
be eligible for up to a $5,000

allow us (tractor/plow operators) to get closer to the fire and plow it out but he can also serve as a
second set of eyes. That pilot can scout ahead of the tractors for danger and also drop water on us if
we get to hot or if we get in trouble.
All in all, what could have been a very damaging fire was kept to a minimum despite resources and
manpower being taxed to the limits.
May 20: Elvis Road Fire, May 21, 2012 Santa Rosa County 55 acres
May 23: Giese Lane Fire May 25, 2013 Escambia County 201 acres
May 26: Indian Bayou Fire, May 27, 2010 Santa Rosa County 279 acres
May 28: North Santa Rosa Fires May 29, 2013 Santa Rosa County 9 separate fires in one
general area for 263.5 acres
May 28: Avalon Hangar Fire May 29, 2013 Santa Rosa County 155 acres
May 30: Main Drive June 2, 2011 Okaloosa County 95 acres