A Second Chance for Fire Crew Members

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DAYS CREEK, Ore. – There’s a lot of dirty work to be done in the fire camps, but many locals are treating it as a second chance.

About 45 students are doing behind the scenes work as part of the Wolf Creek Job Corps. It’s one of 28 programs nationwide run by the US Forest Service, designed to help young adults at risk develop vocational skills.

“A lot of the students out there have made conscious decisions to make a change in their life and get a trade going and get their high school diplomas,” said Jaime Estrada, a supervisor and former student of the program.

At the Whiskey Camp, students work 16-hour days. The work includes organizing hoses and supplies, building and repairs, sanitation and cleanup, or anything else that is needed.

Students say the money is good, and the experience is even better.

“Fire camps are great, the people here are great, friendly… good food,” said Harley Clark, a student at the Whiskey Complex Command Post.

Officials say the program pays off once the students graduate – taxpayer dollars help train them into becoming taxpayers themselves.

“Every dollar that’s spent on a student is given back through their experience and getting a job and moving on with life and in a positive direction,” said Estrada.

The Wolf Creek program ranks highest in the country in terms of employment results, pay scale, and literacy rates. Officials say that translates into hard-working employees for the fire teams, and a chance at a better future for the students.