Howard McCullough's job is a forestry technician at the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. His oldest son, Adam, is a heavy equipment operator at the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge.
The father and son are working together on a team of 236 people working to contain the massive Honey Prairie Fire burning for the past five weeks in the Okefenokee swamp.
Howard McCulloughis a multi-tasker, taking all of his skills into the air as he flies reconnaissance missions over the fire from the passenger seat of a helicopter. His flights provide an ?eye in the sky," mapping the fire, analyzing fire direction, rate of spread, and smoke effects. He also provides pictures and video utilized for strategic fire planning and public information purposes.
Ensuring the safety of firefighters on the ground from his elevated vantage point is his most critical role. When the wildfire attempts to exit the swamp onto private, commercial property, McCullough communicates with supervisory staff on the ground. Decisions made during these conversations pre-position and move personnel and equipment to have maximum effect in fighting the fire while protecting the personnel involved.
Adam McCullough is currently following in his father?s foot steps.
"I spent my youth following Daddy around , learning what he knew and experiencing the reality of a hard days work," Adam McCullough said. "What more could I ask for than to duplicate his enormous successes.?
Adam McCullough got a degree in Forestry Resources from the University of Georgia and has worked for Savannah refuge since 2009.
Adam McCullough?s current firefighter duties include the operation of a tractor-plow unit that freshens and improves established fire lines.
"It?s really stressful when you and others are operating that close to open flames," he said. "It gives me great comfort to know that my father is in the sky over head watching the fire move and keeping us safe. It is one of my fondest hopes that I can go on through life pursuing this dream and maybe influencing my 2-year-old son to also follow in these footsteps.?
?Seeing father and son in the same uniform is always a great treat for me" Refuge Manager Curt McCasland said. "I love working for the National Wildlife Refuge System, and I am so proud to see the children of my fellow workers also picking up the torch."
Favorable weather conditions, hard work and strategic fuel reductions have allowed firefighters to contain about 70 percent of the fire that has blackened more than 230 square miles -- roughly one-quarter -- of the swamp.
" We continue to monitor this 'sleeping giant' hoping for additional rains to finally extinguish the fire,? McCasland said.