Outside the Fire…Chuck Stanley

Do you have any idea how blessed we are to have such incredible mentors of prescribed burning?  I believe what makes a good burner is one that never stops learning and always learns from every fire, every experience, every time.  I decided to showcase prescribed burn practitioners who are just AWESOME at what they do.  I have found that the best guys to burn with are the ones who do not care about the glory or the attention.  “Why I Burn” will showcase a prescribed burn practitioner who gets the job, doesn’t care about the credit, and has a true love and passion for prescribed burning.  These are their stories of fire.

Hello Chuck Stanley.  A friend. A colleague.  And a guy that has a wealth of knowledge underneath a dang good looking hat.  I first met Chuck through my dad.  Chuck and my dad were at a Society for Range Management meeting in Albuquerque and they were the only two men in the Advisory Council meeting that were #1) wearing black Stetsons and #2) talking common sense.  They would later bond over fire stories.  Fast-forward 8 years later and I am still hitting Chuck up for that common sense, boots-on-the-ground, hard-working, well-deserved, sweat-equity common sense.

Chuck has been putting fire on the landscape for 30 years, since his beginning range days at Texas Tech.  Chuck is a Range Management Specialist for the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) in Fort Worth.  He is, basically, the go-to-guy for all things RX Fire in Texas and, especially, with the NRCS.  In other words, he knows his stuff.  This is Chuck’s story of fire.

How did you get introduced to fire? Well that is interesting, To me anyway. When I first started Texas Tech, like many other freshmen, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I bounced from major to major and not really finding my niche. I believe at the time I was taking engineering classes and took an introductory course into range and wildlife habitat. That was when I decided to change majors once again and moved over to the Range and Wildlife department at TTU, thinking what a fortunate decision this would be as I could hunt and fish and get paid for it. So I had to go and visit with my new advisor to get my classes set up and little did I know I was sitting in front of the man who wrote the book on prescribed fire, Dr. Henry Wright. During my “interview” on classwork, Dr. Wright asked me if I had ever burned any rangeland. I thought it might be a trick question to see if I was or had been convicted of arson at some point. I have not been but I have “accidentally” burned a few acres in my younger days. Dr. Wright smiled and said “ well tomorrow we are going to go burn 5000 acres”, I said “on purpose?” From that point on, I was hooked and have been involved with prescribed fire for 30 years. Funny thing, I am getting paid for it.

Do you make special plans for fire in your management plans well in advance, or take advantage of good fuel and weather conditions as they come? It all depends on what type of burn we are needing to meet objectives, and where the burn is to take place (smoke management issues etc.) However, there are times that I have known a place that needed burning, and when a perfect day comes along, we get it done.

What’s the hook for you on fire? I would say the main hook for me is the rejuvenation of the vegetation following the burn. And the landowners satisfaction of the results. I really like to teach the art of prescribed fire and try to get others interested.

In your opinion, what makes a successful fire? Generally speaking, I would say one that stays within the perimeter of the burn site, and all personnel are safe. Beyond that, one where the objectives were met.

Who in your burn circle/crew would you never burn without? My matches and driptorch…. Over the years there have been a bunch of folks that I truly have absolute trust in while burning. Generally they have been doing this a good while, and know what to look for, and understand fire behavior very well. I would not hesitate calling anyone of them if they were in the vicinity. Because of my position now, I just don’t get to go and burn like I used to.

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