For the next several weeks, at-risk youth enrolled with the Heart of Oregon Corps program are receiving professional wild land firefighter training. The training will allow the youth to leave the program with a professional skill they can use to begin valuable careers in firefighting.
In existence for four years, the Heart of Oregon Corps is a regional and preventative program designed to teach job skills to youth who are working on receiving high school diplomas or GEDs through the Sisters School District. Youth projects are developed through private individuals, the city, county, state and federal activities and are completed in regional counties. Heart of Oregon Corps youth (14-16 years old) go to school and work for minimum wage ($7.05) through the program.
The Heart of Oregon Corps youth involved with the wild land firefighter training program range in age from 16 to 21 years old and are part of the one-time a year training that began when the county hired Joe Stutler, Forestry Specialist. Stutler saw a need for the youth to develop a skill that could be useful to them in the future while benefiting the region at the same time.
When the youth leave the Heart of Oregon program, theyll be fully trained and will qualify as wild land firefighters.
This training proves to be a win-win situation for the youth in the program and for the community. The kids are able to make a future for themselves with the new skills they learn and they help the region reduce forest fuels at the same time, says Stutler.
The wild land firefighting fuels reduction training consists of 32 hours of class and hands-on field exercises, a work capacity fitness test (carrying 45 pounds, three miles in 45 minutes or less), and a chainsaw operation safety training.
Stutler coordinates the trainings with Heart of Oregon Corps manager and Deschutes County Juvenile Community Justice Officer Dave Holmes, the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.
This certified training is a great opportunity for these youth. Theyll be able to apply for jobs next fire season, theyll become stewards of the land and the environment, and make living wages anywhere from $10-13 an hour, says Holmes.
To find out more about the Heart of Oregon Corps program, please call 617-3339.