I am a huge fan of ranching women, because I know that a woman who ranches also raises a family, keeps the books, cooks, cleans, and is just as busy in her community as she is checking livestock and tending to horses. George Strait said it best, “how bout them cowgirls”! This month, I want to introduce you to an exceptional lady – Marcy Epperson. Marcy and her family ranch outside of Rocksprings and she recently successfully completed her Texas Department of Agriculture Certified and Insured Prescribed Burn Manager’s license after years of hard work and dedication to learning. Marcy is a mom to two boys, a wife, a rancher, and now a prescribed burn manager! I am proud to call her my friend and colleague!
How did you get introduced to fire? I was introduced to fire through family—as a child I loved helping burn brush piles. There was a hill on the family ranch named Ole Baldy, because my grandfather had burned it. Adult family members always laughed it off as an “accident”, then they’d get serious and say they thought he’d burned it on purpose, like Native Americans had done. I tend to believe the latter, but it probably scared him half to death, and well should have!
How early do you start planning for a prescribed burn? Generally, at least a year; every preparation seems to take longer than the budgeted time, from blading fireguards to having enough accumulated grass (fine fuels) after deferment of grazing.
What’s most unique about a post-fire environment? I would say the most interesting thing is how wildlife throngs into the black immediately after a prescribed fire. From Rio Grande turkeys looking for scorched grasshoppers to quail with chicks and jackrabbits, they all immediately appear and move right into still smoking areas. Any apprehension about wildlife and prescribed fire is always quieted; this isn’t necessarily the case with the wildfire.
In your opinion, what makes a successful fire? I know we all look for success with specific goals and objectives, but ultimately, a safe fire is, in my opinion, a successful fire. Every single fire will be good in some way for our fire adapted ecosystem, and safety is key.
Who or what would you never burn without? I would never burn without a comprehensive burn plan, an experienced crew with good equipment and radios, and most importantly– an up-to-date weather forecast.