Wolf Creek Job Corps firefighters step up to the plate during a nighttime medical air evacuation

Night vision image of Wolf Creek JC firefighters forming a light ring for helicopter to land
June 21, 2019 satellite image of Wolf Creek Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center firefighters gathered in formation on the Wolf Creek Job Corps baseball field to assist a REACH-8 Air Medical Services Agusta A109 Power helicopter land and take off safely during a nighttime emergency airlift. USDA Forest service photo.

OREGON – In the early morning hours of June 21, twenty-three Wolf Creek Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center students and staff put their training as first responders to the test when they assisted REACH-8 Air Medical Services with a life flight transport of a motorist injured on the Umpqua National Forest.

Wolf Creek Job Corps staff initiated a 911 response after a civilian drove 20 miles to the center to report a motor vehicle accident. The injured motorist was transported by ambulance to the center. Before the REACH-8 Agusta A109 Power helicopter arrived, Wolf Creek firefighters gathered in formation to simulate a ring of helicopter landing zone lights that allowed the air medical services crew to land safely on the center’s baseball field, which served as the extraction point.

 “Normally the ground unit that is requesting us sets up a pre-determined landing area or has a local fire department assist with this task,” said REACH flight crew member and registered nurse Brittany Countryman in a letter expressing her gratitude.  “On this very dark night there was no one available to help us land or locate a safe place to land. Troy and the group of young men that met us were fast; we made the decision to try to land at the Job Corps field and within minutes there was a well-lit area to guide us in.”

The students helped off-load the stabilized patient from the ambulance, transported her across The Little River, and loaded her into the Agusta A109 Power helicopter. They gathered for a second time to form a ring of light that allowed the crew to safely lift-off in the darkness of the early morning hours.

Although not as dramatic as battling a wall of flame that they might encounter in a wildfire, the Wolf Creek firefighters put their leadership and teamwork skills to work assisting the responding police and ambulance service personnel.

“Wolf Creek fire students are trained to respond to all risk incidents under the incident command structure,” stated Center Director Gabe Wishart.  “Our students’ ability to respond under stress, follow instruction, and to work safely in atypical situations such as this medical evacuation demonstrates the effectiveness of that training, as well as reinforces the students’ own commitment to seek careers in incident response.” 

At 24 Civilian Conservation Centers across the country, motivated students take advantage of a myriad of firefighting training opportunities available to them both on-center and off. This can include training in helicopter operations learning emergency procedures, loading and unloading personnel, and fire and personal equipment preparation for flight.

Forest Service Job Corps students also train for emergency scenarios and learn to use medical equipment such as SKED, backboard and the Kendrick Traction Device. Students’ skills are further enhanced when they cross-train on the ground with USDA Forest Service staff and emergency management personnel from other organizations. In this instance, not only did Wolf Creek Job Corps students help save a life, the experience further contributed to the students being more mentally and physically prepared for the fire season.

Group photo: Wolf Creek firefighters
On June 21, 2019, Wolf Creek Job Corps student students assisted a REACH-8 Air Medical Services crew evacuate an injured motorist from the Umpqua National Forest. USDA Forest service photo.

Wolf Creek Job Corps students Christopher Atkins, Simon Austin, Michael Biaggi, Ian Benedict-Freeman, Hunter Harlan, Lelund Kaski, Elijah Kerfoot, Jita Kotton, Robert Langdon, Logan Marshall, Sam Mason, John Quayle, Oscar Robles, Reilly Seamons, Michael Thomas, Robert Washburn along with staff members Merlin Lilienthal, Troy Davidson, Paul Garren, Pam Ellis, Theresa Auer, Shawn Fitzpatrick and Tammi Nissan assisted in the emergency evacuation operation.  

In 2018, Civilian Conservation Center students supported over 300 wildfire incidents, providing approximately 450,000 hours of support. Forest Service Job Corps firefighters provided over 5,000 hours of support to Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts.  

Civilian Conservation students contributed 14,000 hours of volunteer hours in hazardous fuels reduction work, helping treat over 35,000 acres in 2018. This included mobilization of 11 prescribed fire modules deployed to the Forest Service Southern (Region 8) and Eastern (Region 9) Regions. Based upon the Independent Sector valuation of $24.56 per hour, these hours translate into $343,840 of economic value to national forests in those regions.

Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center firefighters earned nearly $8M in 2018, taking full advantage of the opportunity to earn money they can utilize to help them transition into new lives after leaving the Civilian Conservation Center program.

 The Job Corps Wildland Fire Program is managed under a partnership between Forest Service Fire and Aviation Management and Job Corps. Students are trained as wildland firefighters and in other support functions, such as working as fire camp crews and dispatching, at all 24 Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers. This effort directly supports our agency’s strategic goal of sustaining our nation’s forests and grasslands and delivering benefits to the public.