urronestly I had no idea what I was doing when it came time to picking Case Studies. I remember Dr. Gallagher saying we should pick something we were interested in either by disaster or area, so I started googling disasters in Florida since I liked the area. Somehow I got on the track of fires and the name Bugaboo Scrub Fire jumped out at me. I had no idea what it was about, but the name looked cool so I signed up for it knowing absolutely nothing. I was very surprised as I started to research the fire that I actually became quite interested in it.

2007 went down as one of the most extremes fire seasons in recent memory. Fires were popping up all over the south in the summer and the Bugaboo Scrub Fire was the largest yet in combined Georgia and Florida history. Immediately preceding the Bugaboo Scrub Fire were the Sweat Farm Road Fire and the Big Turnaround Fire. These two events started a month before the Bugaboo Scrub Fire and when the three joined together in May 2007, they created a gargantuan force known as the Georgia Bay Complex.

What caused the fire? Specifically, a strike of lighting on May 5, 2007 on Bugaboo Island in the Okefenokee Swamp. What contributed to turning it into the largest fire in over 75 years? There were a few causes that all tied in together to create this perfect storm, or fire per say. The area was suffering from an extreme drought and locals knew for over a year that a massive fire was inevitable with the drought levels. Another factor was Subtropical Storm Andrea. Scientists were hopeful that the hurricane would bring rain to help cool the area, but unfortunately that did not happen. Subtropical Storm Andrea changed course and the Okefenokee Swamp fell out of range of the rains and into range of strong winds that picked up and carried the fires across the states. By May 16, 2007 over 120,000 acres were set ablaze. The last contributing factor was a lack of perscribed burns. The fire teams repeatedly stated that they knew a fire was inevitable that summer, but they did not change their habits in the number of controlled fires they lit to clear out flammable underbrush or start the process sooner.

All of this combined to create a fire that took almost 6 months to fully extinguish and over $3.5 billion in costs and damages. Luckily, the fire mitigation teams were able to protect local towns and no lives were lost in the process. It also forced the Georgia Forestry Commission and the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center to release a comprehensive High Reliability Organizing (HRO) Implementation report on how to effectively work with the many fire and rescue services to educate the mitigation teams for the future.

Satellite picture from NASA of the Bugaboo Scrub Fire and the smoke it produced.


  1. Your case study wins the award for best names of any disaster, bugaboo, okefenokee, brilliant. You did not include a death toll, but I would hope that because of the relatively frequent occurrence of fires and the right conditions for one to happen, that people got out mostly ok. I also did a fire, and it seems as though above all else the two worst things are not preparing properly by having scheduled burns and high winds. I wonder why they had not scheduled burns, was it because of the high temperatures and they were worried they would not be able to contain the flames? Anyways what I have learned from your case study and mine, is that wild fires are way more common than most people probably think, and they are very much a real threat which can be set off and take off so fast.

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