KLAMATH FALLS — A Klamath Community College (KCC) program grant for wildland fire workforce development and diversity via the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has been expanded to five years, the amount raised to a total commitment of $575,000.

First approved in 2021, approximately $115,000 in annual funding is being provided in partnership with the National Wildland Coordinating Group (NWCG) for KCC across the five-year timeline. The grant will be used to hire a coordinator, and develop fire sciences courses and degrees transferable to four-year institutions with a focus toward diversifying USFS employment opportunities for minorities and underserved populations.

“We recognize as an agency that we have had some challenges trying to provide our services to all,” said Drag Sharp, program manager for the U.S. Forest Service. “We have a long-standing history of service, safety, diversity, and conservation; but we recognize there are marginalized underserved communities that haven’t been fully represented for a variety of reasons. What we are doing here with KCC is given its location and faculty present we see an opportunity to collaborate and partner and build upon what was already an agreement in place to teach national wildland courses developing firefighters.”

KCC will work closely with regional and local USFS mentors and other area agency representatives to identify agency and community needs, course requirements, delivery capacity, and transferability of credits and degrees.

The KCC, USFS program partnership is part of a larger goal, according to KCC President Dr. Roberto Gutierrez, of establishing a regional fire training center in Klamath Falls, on KCC’s campus.

“This is an example of how KCC is working together with the USFS toward building a regional fire training center that will provide training and employment opportunities for underserved populations and will ultimately add to our goal of a diversified local economy,” Gutierrez said.
According to Sharp, in non-fire related positions USFS has seen a 40% decline of staff over the past decade.

Sharp hopes that funding will expand beyond firefighter training to address staffing shortages and provide career opportunities. He sees development of training programs as opportunities beyond fire suppression in various fields of resource management such as biology and recreation.

A grant from the U.S. Forest Service for development of wildland fire workforce and diversity training at Klamath Community College has been expanded to help better provide training and career opportunities for minorities and underserved populations.