Job Corps Students Graduate to Fight Fires Across the Nation

Christine Schuldheisz
Boise National Forest
May 13th, 2013 at 2:15PM

Until recently, Thomas Barnett, formerly of Washington state, did not have a career goal in mind.Thomas Barnett, a March 2013 graduate of the Centennial Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center, works on building slash piles to help thin unwanted forest fuels on the Boise National Forest in 2012.

However, this spring, the 24-year-old graduated from the Centennial Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center in Nampa, Idaho, and will begin his career as a seasonal firefighter on a fire crew with the Idaho City Ranger District on the Boise National Forest. He said he’ll pursue a career in firefighting because it’s exciting and he enjoys helping people and communities threatened by wildfire. 

“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do before going to Job Corps and now I’m graduating with a job in fire and a career path in front of me,” said Barnett.  “I wouldn’t have this opportunity if it wasn’t for Job Corps.”

Grooming the next generation of firefighters is part of the Forest Service mission. Four years ago, the Boise National Forest partnered with Centennial Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center to train students in wildland firefighting to help meet the demand for firefighters nationwide.

Job Corps instructor Steve Delmar said Forest Service employees provide training in wildland firefighting to students who are clearly very excited about learning a new skill.

“This is an excellent opportunity for our students to receive classroom training as well as experience working with live fire,” Delmar said. “Working hand in hand with our instructors, they quickly learn how to apply their instruction and gain valuable insights into wildland firefighting techniques.”

So far, about 100 students completed the fire training program and other requirements to assist federal, state, Tribal and local firefighters around the country with their wildfire efforts providing initial attack, fire line construction and mop-up duties.

The center has placed 10 of those students in permanent firefighting jobs since the program started.

“This is a great partnership and it gives our students another career path to pursue,” said Delmar.  “Some of our students have an interest in fire management and want to pursue this career path because of the job experience we provide.”