TAVARES — Lake County Fire Rescue Bat. Chief Randy Jones is one of nearly 350 highly trained firefighters from across the country deployed to the Rocky Mount fire in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park. At 5,600-acres, the fire, fueled by extremely dry conditions, is one of the largest in the park’s history.
Chief Jones is serving as Structure Protection Specialist for the Southern Area Incident Management Red Team with the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) and will spend a minimum of two weeks battling the dangerous and unpredictable blaze.
“I will be coordinating with the local fire officials in trying to keep the fire contained inside the national park, preventing it from spreading to private property and endangering structures,” said Bat. Chief Jones. “There are a lot of hand crews on site, but we are going to be ramping it up because the fire progressed so quickly.”
Virginia Department of Forestry officials say the wildfire - the cause of which is unknown - has rapidly grown since last weekend and forced the closure of portions of the Appalachian Trail.
Bat. Chief Jones, a veteran firefighter who began his career in Lake County in 1984, has responded to many Midwest wildfires and large-scale disasters, including Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. Last August, he was deployed to Idaho to help manage the massive Clearwater Complex fires. And earlier this month, he helped command the Royal Trails wildfire in east Lake County, where Lake County Fire Rescue and Florida Forest Service firefighters worked together to save seven homes, and Smokey Junior, a 6-pound bear cub who got separated from its mother.
“Lake County Fire Rescue is proud of the expertise, leadership and experience Bat. Chief Jones is able to share when called upon to respond to wildfires and other disasters,” said Lake County Public Safety Deputy Director John Molenda. “We know his role in Virginia will be critical to containing the wildfire and protecting life and property, and we look forward to his safe return to Lake County.”
For more information about Lake County Fire Rescue, visit www.lakecountyfl.gov/firerescue, www.facebook.com/LakeCountyFireRescue, or www.twitter.com/lakefirePIO.