Scott Jay Maness (1948-1981)



Scott was born on September 14, 1948, in Chicago, Illinois.  He graduated from New Trier High School in 1967.  He received his B.S. degree from California State University at Sonoma, having previously attended the University of Wyoming, and Orange Coast Community college.  Following 3 years service as a research zoologist for the Peace Corps, he returned to CSU and earned a M.A. degree in Biology.  Scott began his professional career with the USFWS in 1980 at Merritt Island NWR.  His major interest was reptile and crocodilian biology, although he was totally involved in all aspects of the wildlife resource.  Scott undertook the expansion of the refuge's monitoring and herpetological inventory projects.  Several specimens collected by Scott were new finds for the refuge.  He also initiated an alligator nest location and production survey and improved the refuge's alligator censusing project.  Scott received a letter of commendation for his work as an interpreter for several Latin American visiting conservationists, participating in the USFWS International Affairs program for conservation education.  In all ways, Scott's concern and enthusiasm for the wildlife resource caused him to excel in his work.

Cause of Death

On Sunday, June 7, 1981, lightning from a thunderstorm apparently started several fires in the Ransom Road area, which smoldered through the night.  About noon on Monday, June 8, three fires were reported which the refuge staff responded to in the Ransom Road Area.  Beau Sauselein and Scott Maness were working together as a tractor crew on a John Deere 550 and fireplow.  Beau was tractor operator and Scott was the observer.  They had plowed around the easternmost fire on Ransom Road while other crews worked at backfiring and manning pumpers on Ransom Road.  Beau and Scott transported the tractor and began to plow around the east side of the second fire.  During the fire suppression efforts, winds had been generally southerly.  While they were plowing this fireline, a thunderstorm approached from the west.  Winds preceding the storm suddenly switched direction with gusts up to 45 knots.  Apparently, realizing the wind shift, Beau picked the fireplow up and began to move away from the fire.  During this effort, the tractor became stumped.  Beau and Scott abandoned the tractor and attempted to flee on foot.  Thick brush and palmetto as high as 8 feet made outrunning the fire impossible.  They selected a site and deployed a single fire shelter in which they both entered.  Beau had left his fire shelter on the tractor.  The fire shelter was designed for one man, and for exposure to radiant heat only, not direct flames.  Beau and Scott died as a result of their burns.


Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, memorial tribute and safety report.