REEDLEY – Wildland fire students at Reedley College are gaining hands-on learning experience thanks to a partnership between local nonprofit Kings River Conservancy and the Reedley College Natural Resources Department.
Students demonstrated this experience for community leaders Nov. 1 as they worked to mitigate hazards in public spaces along Kings River, clearing up recreation areas for public use. According to a press release from Kings River Conservancy, wildland fire students cut a fire line, deployed chainsaws and removed fallen trees and other snags from public trails and the river bed.
“They’re up there today reopening the trails and as practice for being firefighters, they’re up there cutting down trees and creating safer public access,” Patrick Turner, chair of the Kings River Conservancy’s Conservation Committee, said. “They’re providing Kings River a valuable resource by doing this work as part of their schooling, as part of their lab work.”
The press release said record-high flows from last year’s storms caused washed out trails, taken down trees and dangerous snags along trails and the river bed. By helping the Kings River Conservancy clean up these areas, wildland fire students learn how to tend to a riparian environment while also engaging in community service work.
Turner said the partnership between Kings River Conservancy and Reedley College began around two years ago, as students helped the nonprofit remove invasive species from the river. The partnership has since grown and adapted; Turner said students are also working with the Reedley Fire Department to dig fire lines along the Kings River’s edge within the city.
The work done on the Kings River Nov. 1, in the area near Choinumni Park by Pine Flat Dam, will help park rangers and first responders access the river in the event of an incident or fire along the river, Turner said.
Kings River Conservancy has seen a lot of support from Reedley College President Jerry Buckley and David Clark, dean of instruction for the agriculture and natural resources, business and industrial technology departments, Turner said. In turn, the conservancy donates funds to the college’s fire academy foundation — which supports student trips to the Wildland Firefighter Monument in Idaho — when it can.
“I think what we’re doing is really providing future jobs that are going to be in high demand in California,” Turner said. “These folks are getting certifications to become the next wildland firefighters and it is great to see young people choose a profession that can eventually save all of our homes. What better place to do it than Reedley College?”