At age three, Tom Aranow remembers walking to his grandparents’ pond with his dad to fish for bluegills. Everything he caught ended up in the family bathtub because he liked watching the fish more than eating them.
Tom’s love of nature has stayed with him throughout his life. When he was 19, he began spending summers helping a friend manage his 220-acre property near Richland Center. Today Tom co-owns the property and is busy removing invasive species like honeysuckle and bringing 15 acres of goat prairie back to health.
In the 1990s, Tom was part owner of Applied Ecological Services, an ecological consulting and restoration firm in Brodhead, Wisconsin. When he sold his share of the company in 1995, he had more free time and began to volunteer with The Nature Conservancy. Tom captured and marked Hine’s emerald dragonflies in Door County, inventoried trees in the Baraboo Hills, and searched for Karner blue butterflies at Quincy Bluff.
Eventually he began participating in the Conservancy’s fire program and really found his niche. Tom had quite a bit of prescribed fire experience and training before he joined the Conservancy’s fire crew. But he has traveled out of state on his own time and dollar to acquire additional training that qualifies him to serve in leadership and instructor roles. Tom is certified as an engine boss through the National Wildfire Coordinating Group.
“Tom is instrumental to the Conservancy’s fire training program,” said Hannah Spaul, Conservancy Land Steward. “Each year he tirelessly gives his time to be the lead instructor for our basic burn crew training, teaching dozens of individuals the basics of working on the fire line safely and efficiently.”
Tom says he looks forward to spring because getting back together with other fire crew members feels like a family reunion. But it’s not long before they get right to work, he quickly adds.
“It’s important for volunteers to be closely connected to the mission and see how their work fits into an organization like The Nature Conservancy,” Tom said. “I feel that connection as a member of the fire team. It’s a powerful experience, and it keeps me coming back each spring.”