USFS Prescribed Fire Gets Assistance from Oconaluftee Job Corps CCC

From Holly Krake, MSEd, Oconaluftee Job Corps CCC Liaison Specialist

Bryson City, NC – Deep in the Nantahala Gorge, Forestry Conservation students from the Oconaluftee Job Corps CCC partnered with local Forest Service fire staff to put in miles of hand dug fire line through the forest. Tackling steep slopes of over 60 percent, students used specialized wildland fire hand tools such as the Pulaski and McCloud to construct the line down to bare mineral soil in eight inch deep trenches. With many years of wildland fire experience, Cheoah Ranger District Assistant Fire Management Officer, Randall Sellers, knows how important this task is. “Establishing a good fire line is essential to having a burn go as we want. Difficult terrain and fuel types force a wildland fire fighter to adapt his or her approach as they go” said Sellers.

For students, the experience provides an excellent hands-on training in some of the day to day field work done in the Forest Service. As part of Oconaluftee’s Forestry program, all students have a goal to complete 360 work-based learning hours using the skills and certifications they have earned. Many are also put in challenging leadership positions that mirror real world situations. “In this project I’m a squad boss over three other students so I have to work the line, motivate others, and watch out for safety hazards all at the same time. I’ve never had this kind of responsibility before and I’m learning it can be tough but great- this stuff is important” said Forestry student Jake Brock.

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