Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news for working families.

Columbia County News

Quick action by local families averts disaster at Bluebird Landing

by Stew Lilker

Late on Monday morning, February 16th, quick and decisive action by South Columbia County residents averted disaster, as a brush fire, whipped by twenty mile an hour winds, threatened homesteads, livestock, and a large area of south Columbia County, only a mile and a half from the Santa Fe River in Bluebird Landing.

quick thinking neighbors save house

Later that day, local resident, Rob Korn,  as his wife Stacy stood nearby with her baby in her arms and their toddler playing  nearby, told the Observer, “We are grateful that our house didn’t burn down and that no one was injured or had property loses that amounted to more than just singed field grass.” Mr. Korn’s homestead abuts Bluebird Landing.

maybe next time not so lucky
Residents might not be so lucky
next time if the County Commission
wake up. Click image +

It is unclear at this time who called the fire department for assistance, but this much is known. A call went into the High Springs Fire Department. The call was answered by Capt. Bruce Gillingham, the fire house commander on duty. Capt. Gillingham told the Observer that he told the caller that High Springs didn’t service Columbia County anymore and they would have to call Columbia County.

The High Springs Fire Department is staffed during the day by five full time Fire Fighter/EMT’s, and is only 3.5 miles away from the front gate of Bluebird Landing.

The Columbia County, Fort White Station is staffed during the day by two fire fighters, with only one being FF/EMT certified. The Fort White fire station is 8.7 miles from the gate of Bluebird Landing.

more lucky home owners
Two more lucky home owners. A
shift in the wind could have
changed their lives. Click image +

There is presently an unwritten mutual aid agreement between the Columbia County FD and the High Springs FD. According to the terms of this unwritten agreement, if the Columbia County FD would have called the High Springs FD, High Springs would have been on the road in under a minute.

Columbia County Fire Chief, Tres Atkinson told the Observer, “I can get on the phone and Chief Verne (High Springs’ Fire Chief) will send trucks to me right this second. That’s all it takes.”  

Mr. Korn said, “We were lucky we were home.” 

While Mr. Korn was getting his tractor ready to drag the fire road, his wife Stacy was calling the neighbors. saved by neighbors

Mr. Korn held his arms apart to show how close the fire had come to the house. He said, “The fire was three feet from the house and there was a thousand foot fire line. We got wet carpets and beat the fire out and saved the house.”                           Click image +

Mr. Korn continued, “The training I received from Edmond Hudson and my training with the Fort White Volunteer Fire Department saved that house.” 

fire alone road
Quick acting residents kept the fire from blowing across the road. ++

It is clear from the photographs that the fire was itching to jump the fire line and head west into Columbia County. It is a miracle that the wind didn’t shift and the fire didn’t have a chance to devour a homestead or two in the Bluebird Landing. 

Mr. Korn was very complimentary of the professionalism of the Columbia County FD and volunteers when they arrived at the scene and once again praised his old Chief, Edmond Hudson. “He was driving the pumper and kept making trips to the pond to fill up with water to make sure everyone had water when they needed it.” (Chief Hudson did not return phone calls). 

It is clear that the quick action of Rob Korn and his neighbors saved the day and with the help of lady luck, tragedy was averted. 

Smoldering  hay six hours later.
Next time it might be more than
just hay. Click image +

Next time, the residents at the South End might not be so lucky, as 576 families deal with 40% higher insurance rates, longer response times, and EMT training issues. 

The foot dragging of the Columbia County Commission, has demonstrated once again that the safety of the working families of Columbia County is not as important as taking care of the “Good Old Boys.”  

Rob Korn who helped save the day for his neighbors hit the nail on the head when he told the Observer, “The people down here deserve more.”