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Mary Brown Works Behind the Scenes at a Divison of Forestry Dispatch Center to Help Fight Fires

4:43 PM, Jun 22, 2011   |    comments
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BUNNELL, Fla. -- While firefighters tackle wildfires on the ground, Mary Brown tackles the massive amount of information about those fires from inside a small office in Bunnell.

She coordinates the firefighters' every move.

Brown, a dispatcher for the Division of Forestry, monitors hundreds of firefighters - and some pilots -- in three counties.

"In Flagler, Volusia and St. Johns County," Brown said.

She uses both a map and a computer. Today, she squinted at her computer screen and reported, "We have 78 active fires."

As Brown speaks with firefighters on the radio, another staffer listens to the back-and-forth and takes notes, compiling the "where" and "when" for every crew and fire.

Brown's calm persona helps during emergencies. She's been dispatching for 16 years, but she thinks this season is even busier than 1998.

"A lot of information. A lot of fire," Brown said.

The job can get tense, especially during thunderstorms.

She remembers about two weeks ago, the storms rolled in and a DOF pilot called in to Brown. "So the plane goes in and he's calling in 30 to 40 lighting strikes at one time," said Brown. "That was stressful."

At times this season, Brown has dealt with more fires than firefighters. "You eventually get to a point when you don't have any personnel to send to these fires," she said, adding that that can be the toughest part of the job.

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