Karels receives the award of excellence for all of his achievements

(From left to right: Mark Stanford, Jim Karels, Shawnna Legarza and Tom Boggus)
(From left to right: Mark Stanford, Jim Karels, Shawnna Legarza and Tom Boggus Photo: Florida Forest Service)


Realization of life

Jim Karels


Jim Karels is a man of vision and action. His leadership qualities are not only evident to the citizens he serves, but also to those who serve him, both within his organization and throughout the forest fire department.

Jim Karels
(Jim Karels Photo: Florida Forest Service)

Jim has over 38 years of experience in prescribed burning, forest fire suppression and land management across the United States. Originally from the rural area of ​​western Minnesota or the "Prairie Pothole", Jim grew up loving the outdoors. After graduating with a degree in forest management from the University of Minnesota, he traveled west with the US Forest Service and eventually traveled to Florida. Jim and his wife, Debbie, have lived in Tallahassee for more than 30 years and enjoy spending time outdoors. They have two adult sons, Joe and Ben, who grew up helping Jim prescribe burn many properties, including their own land.

In addition to family hunting and fishing adventures, Jim oversees Operation Outdoor Freedom, a program that provides recreation and rehabilitation opportunities for injured veterans in Crown forests, farmland and private lands throughout Florida. Co-founder of the program in 2009, he is convinced that it is a way to honor and give back to the men and women who serve our country and deserve our utmost respect.

Jim is a national leader in managed fire and forest fire management. He is the former president of the National Association of State Forests (NASF) and currently represents the 50 states as chairman of the NASF's fire committee. Jim also sits on other national committees, including the Wildland Fire Leadership Council and the Wildland Fire Executive Council, which support the implementation and coordination of the national fire management program in the United States. Karels is committed to setting up quality incident management teams. His support for training (S-520 and CIMC) and a leadership philosophy at all levels is evident. The Florida Forest Service maintains four IMTs currently operating on Type 1 incidents nationwide.

Although managed fires are one of the most valuable land management tools for reducing forest fire threats and restoring forest health, Jim believes that people are the key. The establishment of partnerships before a disaster occurs is essential. He believes that working together to effectively educate landowners and the public can preserve our burning heritage, ultimately helping to preserve our forest ecosystems, improve our wildlife and protect our citizens.

In October 2018, Hurricane Michael destroyed more than 2.8 million acres of forest land on an 80-mile strip in the Florida Panhandle before crossing Georgia and Alabama. Jim initiated the inclusion of forestry in the $ 19.1 billion bill approving an emergency budget for disaster disasters, passed in June 2019. After leading this historic achievement, Jim now serves as a leading force in developing implementation plans with the USDA, primarily to assist non-industrial forest landowners in the wake of the storm. category 5 and contribute to the restoration of forests. First agricultural product of Florida.

On June 20, 2011, Jim did what no boss wants to do: he led his family of firefighters when other firefighters, Joshua Burch and Brett Fulton died in service. As a result of the tragedy, Jim became the driving force behind the development of the Blue Ribbon Walk to ensure that all members of the Forest Fire Department were trained.

With his experience, Jim's true leadership style became a priority in 2013 when he led the Yarnell Hill Fire Mortality Survey. In doing so, Jim demonstrated the priorities of his leadership both professionally and personally.

Jim is a strong advocate for leadership development and the Wildland Fire leadership development program. As Karels puts it, "Leadership involves great responsibility, and I take it seriously and personally. In my position, lives and livelihoods are at stake every day. Whether it's fire response or land management, there are real people, real families and real stories in every aspect of our work. From the Florida Forest Service to the landowners and citizens we serve and protect, it is my duty to ensure their safety and the sound management of our forest resources for future generations. "

Jim Karels Leadership Award
(Price "An example by Jim Karels")