Ronnie E. Chambless was born August 19‚ 1971‚ in Gainesville‚ Texas. He had two younger sisters‚ Jennifer and Kirsten. He became fascinated with aviation at age four‚ when he was given a toy airplane‚ and spent many hours talking flying with his grandfather‚ a retired air force pilot. He also spent much free time on computers when they came out with flight simulator games.
He attended school in Wichita Falls‚ Texas‚ graduated from Rider High School‚ then attended Midwestern State University‚ where he completed a degree in environmental science. While in high school‚ he belonged to a Boy Scout explorer group for aviation which met at Sheppard Air Force Base at the flying training wing. Several times they were able to ride along on some of the tanker aircraft. Ronnie loved it‚ but he always got airsick. During college he worked part-time at a small airpark and put all his pay toward flying lessons‚ still getting sick every time he flew.
Ronnie loved the outdoors and enjoyed hiking‚ camping‚ and photography. He went to the Philmont Boy Scout area in New Mexico as a teenager‚ later returning to work as staff. He fell in love with the state of New Mexico and bought his first house in Angelfire. He took flying jobs that would further his career as a pilot and enable him to travel extensively.
Over his career‚ he spent summers in India‚ Africa‚ Saudi Arabia‚ and Canada doing weather modification projects. He was the pilot in a BBC documentary about cloud seeding. He ferried a single-engine plane by himself from Florida to Denmark. His winters were spent in the Boise‚ Idaho‚ area where he also did weather modification (making snow). He flew smokejumpers in Alaska‚ but his ultimate goal was to be a ‘fire pilot.’ He welcomed the opportunity to fly for Neptune Aviation and trained on the Lockheed P2-V firefighting aircraft.
Ronnie and Todd Tompkins were fighting the White Rock fire in Utah near the Nevada border when they crashed June 3‚ 2012. Ronnie was living in Boise‚ Idaho‚ at the time of his death. He was involved in the Hash House Harriers and loved going to Burning Man. He spent many hours volunteering at the Wildland Firefighter Foundation‚ helping on many fundraisers. He had many friends in the firefighting community. Recently‚ aviation pictures were hung on the wall at the WFF with the story behind each incident‚ a project Ronnie had been working on.
Ronnie was able to marry his love of flying with firefighting‚ and that is how he died. We remember his spirit and his smile‚ his kind ways‚ his love of being up in the air and looking down‚ which is what he is doing today.