Florida Forest Service (FFS), Forest Area Supervisor(FAS), Larry Connell will be retiring from the Withlacoochee Forestry Center November 31st 2017.
Larry began his career in 1989 as a Ranger/Wildland Firefighter in Sumter County. Florida Forest Service forest rangers/wildland firefighters are an elite team of selfless public servants who put their lives on the line to protect the citizens, homes, businesses and natural resources of Florida. They fill various wildfire suppression roles including fighting wildfire on the ground using a range of specialized equipment. Forest rangers are often called on for landowner assistance and to conduct fire prevention programs at schools and civic group meetings. Additional duties include wildfire suppression, wildfire detection, wildfire prevention and mitigation, prescribed fire, cooperative forestry assistance, state forest management, reforestation, outdoor recreation and forest education.
Sr. Ranger Connell was promoted to FAS in 2012. Over the course of the years, Larry has shared his knowledge with new recruits. He has taught Basic Fire Control and the Incident Command System to both Agency and non-Agency students. He has worked within the community with landowners and cooperators to strengthen the wildfire protection efforts in Sumter County. He served as a type 2 Operations Chief before he began his career as a Safety Officer in 1993.
Mr. Connell has responded to over 75 major incidents both in-state and out of state. He has worked as a Type 1 Safety Officer for over 25 years and has been deployed to 21 different states to help with various emergency incidents. Larry has worked Wildfires, Hurricanes, Tornados, Citrus Canker, Med Fly, Mouse Infestations, Floods and the Space Shuttle Recovery Efforts. He has served on the Florida Type 2 Blue and Gold Incident Command Teams and the Southern Area Type 1 Red Incident Command Team.
“I feel privileged that I was able to learn from experts in the field, like Wayne Jones, Bob Duty and Steve Price.”, said Larry, “They taught me how to fight fire on our terms, defensively not offensively, while keeping our staff safe.”
Mr. Connell is a 5th generation Sumter County resident, owner of Hooligo0 Farms where he grows vegetables and works cattle. He plans to stay active with the federal fire program on his Southern Area Red Team and spend more time with family, fishing, hunting and singing gospel at his church.
He said his most memorable event was being the Operations Section Chief on the Bugaboo Wildfire in North Florida. The fire was in two states, Georgia and Florida and started by lightening on May 5 2007. Over 1,100 firefighters and other officials battled the blaze. “The smoke hung so heavy on the area for three days it was like there was a lid on it,” Larry said, “That gave us an opportunity to get ahead of it, it was a turning point”.
The position of Forest Area Supervisor in Sumter County is currently the process of being filled.