(1) The division has the following powers, authority, and duties:
(a) To enforce the provisions of this chapter;
(b) To prevent, detect, suppress, and extinguish wildfires wherever they may occur on public or private land in this state and to do all things necessary in the exercise of such powers, authority, and duties;
(c) To provide firefighting crews, who shall be under the control and direction of the division and its designated agents;
(d) To appoint center managers, forest area supervisors, forestry program administrators, a forest protection bureau chief, a forest protection assistant bureau chief, a field operations bureau chief, deputy chiefs of field operations, district managers, senior forest rangers, investigators, forest rangers, firefighter rotorcraft pilots, and other employees who may, at the division’s discretion, be certified as forestry firefighters pursuant to s. 633.35(4). Other provisions of law notwithstanding, center managers, district managers, forest protection assistant bureau chief, and deputy chiefs of field operations shall have Selected Exempt Service status in the state personnel designation;
(e) To develop a training curriculum for forestry firefighters which must contain the basic volunteer structural fire training course approved by the Florida State Fire College of the Division of State Fire Marshal and a minimum of 250 hours of wildfire training;
(f) To make rules to accomplish the purposes of this chapter;
(g) To provide fire management services and emergency response assistance and to set and charge reasonable fees for performance of those services. Moneys collected from such fees shall be deposited into the Incidental Trust Fund of the division; and
(h) To require all state, regional, and local government agencies operating aircraft in the vicinity of an ongoing wildfire to operate in compliance with the applicable state Wildfire Aviation Plan.
(2) Division employees, and the firefighting crews under their control and direction, may enter upon any lands for the purpose of preventing and suppressing wildfires and investigating smoke complaints or open burning not in compliance with authorization and to enforce the provisions of this chapter.
(3) Employees of the division and of federal, state, and local agencies, and all other persons and entities that are under contract or agreement with the division to assist in firefighting operations as well as those entities, called upon by the division to assist in firefighting may, in the performance of their duties, set counterfires, remove fences and other obstacles, dig trenches, cut firelines, use water from public and private sources, and carry on all other customary activities in the fighting of wildfires without incurring liability to any person or entity.
(4) The department may build structures, notwithstanding chapters 216 and 255, not to exceed a cost of $50,000 per structure from existing resources on forest lands, federal excess property, and unneeded existing structures. These structures must meet all applicable building codes.
(5) The division shall organize its operational units to most effectively prevent, detect, and suppress wildfires, and to that end, may employ the necessary personnel to manage its activities in each unit. The division may construct lookout towers, roads, bridges, firelines, and other facilities and may purchase or fabricate tools, supplies, and equipment for firefighting. The division may reimburse the public and private entities that it engages to assist in the suppression of wildfires for their personnel and equipment, including aircraft.
(6) The division shall undertake privatization alternatives for fire prevention activities including constructing fire lines and conducting prescribed burns and, where appropriate, entering into agreements or contracts with the private sector to perform such activities.
(7) The division may organize, staff, equip, and operate the Florida Center for Wildfire and Forest Resources Management Training. The center shall serve as a site where fire and forest resource managers can obtain current knowledge, techniques, skills, and theory as they relate to their respective disciplines.
(a) The center may establish cooperative efforts involving federal, state, and local entities; hire appropriate personnel; and engage others by contract or agreement with or without compensation to assist in carrying out the training and operations of the center.
(b) The center shall provide wildfire suppression training opportunities for rural fire departments, volunteer fire departments, and other local fire response units.
(c) The center will focus on curriculum related to, but not limited to, fuel reduction, an incident management system, prescribed burning certification, multiple-use land management, water quality, forest health, environmental education, and wildfire suppression training for structural firefighters.
(d) The center may assess appropriate fees for food, lodging, travel, course materials, and supplies in order to meet its operational costs and may grant free meals, room, and scholarships to persons and other entities in exchange for instructional assistance.
(e) An advisory committee consisting of the following individuals or their designees must review program curriculum, course content, and scheduling: the Director of the Florida Division of Forestry; the Assistant Director of the Florida Division of Forestry; the Director of the School of Forest Resources and Conservation of the University of Florida; the Director of the Division of Recreation and Parks of the Department of Environmental Protection; the Director of the Division of the State Fire Marshal; the Director of the Florida Chapter of The Nature Conservancy; the Executive Vice President of the Florida Forestry Association; the President of the Florida Farm Bureau Federation; the Executive Director of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission; the Executive Director of a Water Management District as appointed by the Commissioner of Agriculture; the Supervisor of the National Forests in Florida; the President of the Florida Fire Chief’s Association; and the Executive Director of the Tall Timbers Research Station.
(8) The Cross City Work Center shall be named the L. Earl Peterson Forestry Station. This is to honor Mr. L. Earl Peterson, Florida’s sixth state forester, whose distinguished career in state government has spanned 44 years, and who is a native of Dixie County.