One of the Job Corps Centers slated to be closed sent personnel on 40 assignments in 2016

Pine Knot Job Corps Center in Kentucky trained enrollees to assist at wildfires and prescribed fires

Job Corps camp crew
Job Corps Camp Crew.

The U.S. Forest Service and the Department of Labor (DOL) have confirmed in a Forest Service internal newsletter and a DOL news release that the Forest Service intends to close 9 Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers  and transfer the remaining 16 centers operated by the Forest Service to the Department of Labor.

It appears that the concept of closing the centers and laying off over 1,000 FS employees originated with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, although it is not clear if it was conceived at a higher level.

In testimony before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Related Agencies on May 2, 2019, Chairman Roy Blunt said to Secretary of Labor Rene Acosta, “…There were a couple of USDA run programs in the country. I have been told they are no longer interested in running those programs.”

Mr. Acosta responded: “USDA has indicated they have concerns as to the effectiveness of those programs. If they do withdraw we would look Job Corps by Job Corps and determine whether to close that center, consolidate it, or convert it into something different.”

The DOL says the administration intends to replace the government employees that are running the remaining 16 centers with contractors. Sources within the Job Corps have told us that after the changes take place the centers will no longer have programs to train the participants in wildland firefighting, prescribed fire, or logistical support for large incidents. This and the conversion to contractor run facilities, according to reports from inside the Job Corps, will result in more than 1,000 FS employees being laid off. We have had inquiries in with the FS and DOL since May 25, asking for more details, but it can be difficult getting responses from government agencies on a holiday weekend.

Firefighting is not the only trade being taught in the centers. Participants in the tuition-free training and education programs can also receive training and earn certificates in a variety of trades, including culinary arts, welding, forestry, health care, information technology, advanced manufacturing, accounting, automotive repair, heavy equipment operation, truck driving, construction, and seamanship.

The Forest Service published a summary for the year 2016 of the accomplishments at the 22 centers that participated in the forestry and firefighting genre. (download the report; very large 14 MB pdf file). It shows that combined, they provided help on 412 assignments involving 1,971 participant assignments (many had more than one), for a total of 368,998 hours.

Below are some details from the report of how one center that is slated by the Administration to be closed, the Pine Knot center in the Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky, assisted the Forest Service and other agencies. The text is pasted below, and page 8 about Pine Knot from the report follows the text.

“Pine Knot Job Corps Shines During the 2016 Fire Season
Jamie Tyson, Job Corps Forest Area Fire Management Officer, Daniel Boone National Forest-Pine Knot Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center

“Reflecting their solid training and professionalism, Pine Knot Job Corps Civilian Conservation Students (JCCCC) students worked 13,129 hours on 40 assignments during the 2016 fire season.

“Upon becoming red-carded, Pine Knot Job Corps students are available to support the efforts of the Daniel Boone National Forest and national forests nationwide through a multitude of avenues.

“To support wildland suppression efforts, Pine Knot Job Corps students may participate in camp crew, Firefighter Type 2 (FFT2) and FFT2 Initial Attack (IA) crew assignments, as well as various module or engine configurations. Students are also utilized extensively to assist in completion of national forest priority projects and targets on the Daniel Boone National Forest, especially those pertaining to fuels, stream restoration, trail maintenance, and hazard tree removal.

“At the highest point, nearly 1,000 fire personnel were on the scene to battle the West Mims Fire, ignited by a lightning strike and reported on April 6, 2017, on the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. Behind the scenes are camp crews that provide critical support to wildland firefighting efforts. The West Mims Fire incident managers recognized the Pine Knot Job Corps camp crew as the “unsung heroes” on the fire.”

Continue reading “One of the Job Corps Centers slated to be closed sent personnel on 40 assignments in 2016”

In the Forest Service’s own words: the value of the Job Corps

“We’re really fortunate on the Colville National Forest to have a Job Corps so close by. They are just an incredible asset.”

USFS Job Corps Video
“We’re really fortunate on the Colville National Forest to have a Job Corps so close by. They are just an incredible asset. What we saw the Job Corps do today was actual firefighting when we need it most in the summer time when our normal crews are stretched fairly thin. It’s nice to have a skill set that we know is tested because they’re on the forest, we’ve seen their work, they’re a proven product. “

In light of the Administration’s decision to shut down 9  Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers operated by the U.S. Forest Service and transfer the remaining 16 to the Department of Labor we did a little research and found a video (below) produced by the Forest Service that goes to great lengths to praise the Job Corps and extol the benefits received by agency.

The images in this article are screengrabs from the video and the captions are transcriptions of the audio by the FS employees pictured. Unfortunately the video did not give the names of anyone shown.

USFS Job Corps Video
“In my opinion our mission is to help the Forest Service with their mission, whether we’re doing welding for gate closures, or building picnic tables, or cleaning a campground. We remove hazard trees from the campground. We thin the forest and get them into the right mix of trees and density that they should be. It’s just a perfect relationship.”
USFS Job Corps Video
(From Bill Gabbert: After this video was produced one of the Centers was transferred to the Department of Labor, reducing the total to 25.)

USFS Job Corps Video

USFS Job Corps Video

USFS Job Corps locations map
Map of the 25 Job Corps Centers operated by the U.S. Forest Service. As of May 25, 2019 nine are slated to be closed and the others transferred to the Department of Labor.


Trump administration plans to close 9 Job Corps centers

The remaining 16 would be transferred to the Department of Labor and run by contractors

south dakota fire crew job corps
Black Hills National Forest firefighter and crewboss trainee, Josh Walk took this photo of his crew of firefighters from Box Elder Job Corps and Rapid City Fire Department, working the 2015 Buckhorn Saddle Fire on the Bitterroot National Forest in Montana.

An “Inside the Forest Service” document sent to all FS employees today stated that the agency will basically, in so many words, wash its hands of the Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center program and transfer it to the Department of Labor. One thing the newsletter did not mention is that the Trump Administration also intends to permanently close nine of the twenty-five centers in the country.

The Job Corps centers, which are run by federal employees, help train youths in wildland firefighting, forestry, culinary arts, welding, and other trades. Their official mission is to educate 16- to 24-year-olds, many of whom are from disadvantaged backgrounds, while helping U.S. conservation efforts on public lands. After graduating from the program many of the youths have training, skills, and experience that qualifies them for permanent jobs in government or private industry.

Job Corps crews are often used on wildfires and prescribed fires. At best this capability will be reduced by 36 percent with 9 centers closing. It remains to be seen if the personnel at the surviving 16 centers will be trained and allowed to participate in firefighting and other land management activities.

A press release issued by the Department of Labor revealed that nine of the centers would be closed. The Forest Service will have to request reduction in force (RIF) authority to do so, which may mean agency employees will lose their jobs. There is a report that nearly 1,100 Forest Service employees will be laid off.

The administration intends to replace the government employees that will run the remaining 16 centers with contractors, bringing to mind the cages that contain migrant children on the border and prisons that are operated on a for-profit basis, both run by contractors.

The information below came from the Department of Labor, May 24, 2019. They refer to the Job Corps as “Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers (CCC)”.

“Sixteen CCCs will continue under a new contract operator or partnership: Angell CCC in Yachats, Oregon; Boxelder CCC in Nemo, South Dakota; Centennial CCC in Nampa, Idaho; Collbran CCC in Collbran, Colorado; Columbia Basin CCC in Moses Lake, Washington; Curlew CCC in Curlew, Washington; Great Onyx CCC in Mammoth Cave, Kentucky; Harpers Ferry CCC in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia; Lyndon Johnson CCC in Franklin, North Carolina; Jacobs Creek CCC in Bristol, Tennessee; Mingo CCC in Puxico, Missouri; Pine Ridge CCC in Chadron, Nebraska; Schenck CCC in Pisgah Forest, North Carolina; Trapper Creek CCC in Darby, Montana; Weber Basin CCC in Ogden, Utah; and Wolf Creek CCC in Glide, Oregon.

“A Federal Register Notice will propose nine CCCs for deactivation: Anaconda CCC in Anaconda, Montana; Blackwell CCC in Laona, Wisconsin; Cass CCC in Ozark, Arkansas; Flatwoods CCC in Coeburn, Virginia; Fort Simcoe CCC in White Swan, Washington; Frenchburg CCC in Frenchburg, Kentucky; Oconaluftee CCC in Cherokee, North Carolina; Pine Knot CCC in Pine Knot, Kentucky; and Timber Lake CCC in Estacada, Oregon.”

What are you thoughts about closing 9 Job Corps centers and having the remaining 16 run by contractors in the Department of Labor?

Crow Peak Fire Job Corps
Crow Peak Fire June 25, 2016. Photo by Robert Cota, Boxelder Job Corps Crew 15 Fire Program Manager, Black Hills National Forest.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to William. Typos or errors, report them HERE.

29 have graduated recently from the Trapper Creek Job Corps firefighter program

The Ravalli Republic has an uplifting story about the recent graduates of the firefighter training program at the Trapper Creek Job Corps center south of Darby, Montana. The nine individuals that were recognized on December 10 are in addition to the 20 that previously graduated and left the facility. The graduates were given coats as a symbol of their achievements.

Below is an excerpt from the article:

…This past summer they learned that struggle can lead to something good. They learned that what they thought were their limits weren’t really where it stops at all. They discovered that they had much more buried deep inside of themselves than they ever imagined.

“You learned to embrace the suck,” said Trapper Creek’s Fire Training Specialist Danny Atkinson. “You found that struggle can become the goal. When it sucks the most, life is good. You discovered that you are a lot damn tougher than you ever thought you were.”

As a team that started with 44 members, they put in 71,774 hours on 277 assignments that took them to 11 states as far away as Wisconsin. Along the way, they and others at Trapper Creek Job Corps earned $1.2 million in gross pay. There is only one other Job Corps Center that’s broken the $1 million mark before. Trapper Creek has done that two years in a row.

“Some of our students have between $5,000 and $20,000 in their bank accounts,” said Justin Abbey, Trapper Creek’s Fire Management Officer. “That’s the money that they’ll be able to tap into to relocate, buy a car and pay for that first and last month’s rent. It helps set them up for success…”

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Paula.
Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Wildfire activity increases in the Black Hills

(Originally published at 10:12 MDT June 26, 2016; Douglas fire updated at 2:10 p.m. MDT June 25, 2016))

Crow Peak Fire
Crow Peak Fire June 25, 2016. Photo by Robert Cota, Boxelder Job Corps Crew 15 Fire Program Manager, Black Hills National Forest.

Firefighters are suppressing four wildfires in the Black Hills of Wyoming and South Dakota, ranging from 64 to 5,000 acres.

Fires Black Hills
Fires in the Black Hills June 25, 2016. Click to enlarge.

Kara Creek: 5,000 acres 4 miles east of Keyhole Reservoir, 15 miles west of Sundance, Wyoming, and about 3 miles north of Interstate 90. Before the fire was reported Friday evening a lightning storm accompanied by very strong winds hit the area. Air tankers, Type 1 hand crews, and Type 2IA hand crews have been ordered.

A resident of Upton, Wyoming told us that the clouds were generating rain but it evaporated before hitting the ground. They said the fire was putting up a large amount of smoke Friday evening.

(UPDATE at 5:54 p.m. MDT June 25: with the growth of the Kara Creek fire to 12,000 acres, we dedicated a separate article to just that fire. It has much more information about this fire.

Douglas: 1,785 acres; it started Thursday 10 miles southwest of Sundance, Wyoming and is being managed by a Type 3 incident management team. On Friday the fire was most active on the southwest side where, according to the Rapid City Journal, new evacuations were ordered. More information is in our earlier article about the Douglas Fire, and we have a gallery of photos here.

(UPDATE for the Douglas Fire at 2:10 p.m. MDT June 25, 2016)

At about 11 a.m. today fire officials for the Douglas Fire released this information:

The Douglas Fire saw growth early in the day yesterday but stabilized as the day went on. The fire is estimated at 2000 acres and is now contained.

Incident Command of the Douglas Fire shifted to Type 4 Incident Commander Dallas Roth this morning. Four fire engines and one handcrew will remain on the Douglas Fire to ensure the fire stays contained.

The evacuation of Sundance Canyon Ranch subdivision has been lifted.

Rapid Creek: 1,000 acres. It was reported Friday afternoon near the intersection of 158th Avenue and East Highway 44, 24 miles southeast of Rapid City in the Farmingdale area. The heat-sensing satellites did not detect any heat overnight from this fire, which may indicate that it burned in light fuels, such as grass, and was relatively cool during the subsequent overflight.

Crow Peak: 64 acres, 5 miles west of Spearfish, SD. A Type 3 incident management team has been ordered. Great Plains dispatch office reported that firefighters were pulled off the fire Friday night due to the passage of a cold front bringing strong winds. The fire was reported Friday afternoon.

UPDATE at 8:48 a.m. MDT June 26, 2016:  More recent information about the Crow Peak and Kara Creek Fires. A Type 2 incident management team, with Incident Commander Shane Greer, has been ordered. The Forest Service reports the Crow Peak Fire has burned 250 acres.

Crow Peak Fire
Crow Peak Fire June 25, 2016. Photo by Robert Cota, Boxelder Job Corps Crew 15 Fire Program Manager, Black Hills National Forest.

Davidson River crew — 1923 and 2015

Davidson River Fire Crew 2015
Davidson River Fire Crew 2015.

We received the following message from Bill Coates, Acting Superintendent of the Davidson River Initial Attack Crew (above), who referred to a photo that we posted on November 18 taken in 1923. We reposted that photo down below. Click on it to see a larger version.


“The first photo featured on your post of old firefighting photos is one that we also encountered in some archives a while ago, identified as the Davidson River Fire Crew. In 2008 the US Forest Service and Schenck Job Corps in Pisgah Forest, North Carolina teamed up to create the Davidson River Initial Attack Crew, an advanced fire management training program for Job Corps graduates. Today that crew trains and places approximately 15 students per year, and provides training opportunities to 8-12 agency overhead detailers. We help Region 8 forests accomplish their prescribed fire targets and typically burn between 30,000 and 60,000 acres annually, in addition to wildfire response. I’ve attached a photo [above] of today’s crew from a day we recently spent volunteering at Veteran’s Healing Farm ( John Mahshie, who runs the farm, is on the far right.

Bill Coates, Acting Superintendent, Davidson River IA*


firefighters rail car