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Florida Forest Service ranger helps with emergency efforts out west

Posted at 4:56 PM, Sep 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-15 18:32:20-04

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY, Fla. — The call for help has gone nationwide as raging wildfires burn millions of acres out west.

"Obviously the axe end would be the cutting end," said Senior Forest Ranger Raymond Kirkland, talking about his tools of the trade. "It has a shovel and a pick."

The six-year veteran of the Florida Forest Service spent the past two weeks in Colorado. He worked two fires, including the Pine Gulch Fire, now the largest in that state’s history.

"The elevation is breathtaking, literally," Kirkland said.

Kirkland worked as part of a battalion to perform line prep.

"Areas where it was too steep to get heavy machinery, we would hike down there and widen the hand line," Kirkland said.

Kirkland said fires out west can scar the landscape for years.

"Here, we’re so lush with rainfall and vegetation that we could have burn area, then next following year, it could be green and hardly look like any damage was done," Kirkland said.

And while they could see the fire, Kirkland said in the age of COVID-19, that invisible virus led to the National Guard coming in at one point after a handful of positive cases.

"They COVID tested everybody and we were able to go back to work once we had our negative tests," Kirkland said.

Kirkland said people living in the fire zones are always grateful for what they do, and he’s ready and willing to go back again.