‘Firefighters Without Firefighters’ – SRJC students are trained to be part of a firefighter

Over the years, Christine “CH” Stevan, 33, often fell asleep at night during a fire.

An Air Force veteran and mother battled PTSD and felt helpless about the devastating effects of climate change on the West. A.D. In 2017, the family fled their homes during a tuberculosis fire near Rosa Hawart Park.

But now those stressful wildfires are over, says Stephen.

In the first part of a new program at Santa Rosa Junior College, she found a way to act as one of your fears – building a skilled workforce that experts and officials say is needed to respond. The threat of wildfires is growing.

Students will take a series of courses focusing on field courses, exercises, and land management and fire prevention, including groundwater ecology, animal grazing practices, and deforestation.

The goal is to withstand wildfires and equip a new generation with the tools needed to protect communities and landscapes in a new and very dangerous volcanic era.

Stephen is one of the student leaders. Behind her, 300 more students are still in the 3-month program.

As someone who loves Sonoma County, Stephen says, “I will do my best to help.”

The Wildfire Reservation Program is the first of its kind in 116 community colleges in California, said Agriculture and Natural Resources DNJ Goldtin. It is part of a growing movement within the state university and college system to address the climate crisis based on high-demand jobs in the coming decades.

“For me, this is an investment for the future,” said James Gore, Sonoma County Superintendent, who has suffered greatly in the North County over the past four years.

At the end of August, the Board of Supervisors awarded $ 500,000 in support of the SRJC program for the remaining $ 25 million from the county’s PG&E settlement following the 2017 North Bay fire.

Gore said the program is a step in the right direction by changing the course of Sonom County to prevent and combat dangerous wildfires by focusing more on landscaping and using prescribed fires.

“If there are no firefighters, it is a fire extinguisher,” said Superintendent Chris Kursi. He described the program as “all-purpose” and a perfect use of PG&E settlement funds, as it takes care of brush management by creating a promising career path for emotional students.

The grant covers three years of paid work experience at Shone Farm, 5 subsidies or college credits for work with foreign companies, and focuses on wildlife resilience for 300 students in natural resources, local horticulture and animal science courses, Goldstein said.

Many participating students have dropped out of local high schools or are looking for a middle-aged career change after being affected by one or more wildfires.

SRJC has the right place to start that training, on Shone Farms, 120 acres of crop, farmland and forest land outside Forestville. It also has an extensive network of non-profit community partners focused on ecosystem management and listed fires.

Last Friday, a group of programmers at Shone Farm were learning how to use wood saws and chain saws to prepare the forest for the planned fire.

“Back Shortcut!” Amy Conner, 39, screamed and used a chain saw to cut down a dry, non-native tree, warning nearby teachers and students.

Bark and wood-chips were scattered with a saw blade. Corner stopped, adjusting the angle.

“He’s going!” Someone shouted, and the cone fell off in a satisfying voice.

Teachers gathered around her first fall for applause and crowding: one step closer to reducing the amount of fuel stored on the farm’s plot, making it healthier and more vulnerable to wildfires, one of which was Briana Boaz. Teacher leaders.

After 18 years of working as a restaurant waitress, she felt that she was “terrifying, exciting, and energetic.” She now has an eye on land management, and says the SRJC program has given her a new sense of purpose.

Other students see wildfires as a growing profession.

“The program gave me a goal. He gave me a drive, ”said Stephen, who wants to work with firefighters, conservation groups and private landlords to keep the Sonoma County forests healthy.

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