$1.7-million grant helps Reedley College expand its Forestry Job Training program

REEDLEY, Calif. (KFSN) -- As millions of dead and dying trees continue to pose a threat to public safety, CAL FIRE is stepping up its efforts to try and stay ahead of the wildfires that burn every year in our local mountains by offering funding for students who take the Forestry Job Training program at Reedley College.

"We all laud the brave men and women who go up there to fight the fires but if we cut down the dead trees before they catch on fire and clear the brush, we're going to be saving them some of the hassle and danger that they're getting put in during the fire season," says Blake Konczal of the Fresno Regional Workforce.

Leaders from the State Center Community College District on Thursday announced a partnership with CAL FIRE that will provide nearly $1.7 million for students.

Students in the Forestry program have been experiencing hands-on training for decades now.

According to Reedley College, the school has found employment for every student that wanted a job in the field.

The grant will only enhance the curriculum and provide additional training equipment for the school.

The $1.675 million dollar grant will help to provide advanced tree removal certification training to 100 students and expand the program at the community college.

"Now with the investment into the program and where things are at, I know what that need is and I can give them the skill sets so when they do get a job they can hit the ground running," says Wildland Fire Instructor Adam Hernandez.

Longtime instructor Adam Hernandez says the school's current program shares equal time in the classroom and out in the field.

"What we try to do and the way I try to structure is academic concepts in the classroom and then we can come out here and apply that and actually get some context to that training and academic perspective," says Hernandez.

Entry-level salaries can pay up to around $18 an hour.

The grant is expected to cover students' costs in the program.

"Right now we have just two classes to do this. Just more opportunities to get better skills and more time to come out here and practice this. That's just great all around for everybody," says Ian Ashby, a student.

Thanks to the grant, students will begin taking forest fuel management training in the coming weeks.
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