The Tupper Fire and Fuels Career Camp is a week-long residential camp designed to spark the interest of high school seniors in a career with the U.S. Forest Service, with an emphasis on fire and fuels management. Our objectives include maintaining a diverse workforce and encouraging that diversity through information sharing with potential candidates about fire and fuels as a career choice, and fostering mutually supportive partnerships with local communities through the school districts.

Fun in the sun at Tupper Fire and Fuels Camp

The first Tupper Fire and Fuels Career Camp was held in October 2007. Students were recruited from the three high schools in Morrow County. Sixty applications were handed out, 18 applications were received, and 14 students ‘graduated’ from the first year’s camp. The camp was broadly supported by the Morrow County School District, our primary partner. In addition, Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF), the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), the Blue Mountain and Central Oregon Community Colleges, and five National Forests participated in the camp’s instruction and development.

The curriculum was designed to provide a broad exposure to our hiring authorities, educational opportunities, financial aid and scholarship options, map reading and orienteering, fire ecology and natural resource management, hazardous fuels reduction, and fire suppression techniques. Participants in the first years’ camp were encouraged to apply for seasonal jobs with the Umatilla National Forest and cooperating agencies for the summer of 2008, and so far seven of the participants have been hired. Nearly 60% of the camp participants and new hires are from under-represented groups such as women, minorities, and people with certain disabilities.

The Umatilla National Forest is an excellent training ground for new employees. The National Forest frequently has complex wildland and prescribed fires, and so has ample need for temporary positions (approximately 60) and numerous permanent seasonal vacancies each year. The Forest has long standing positive connections with local communities and students. These relationships help provide for a solid foundation for success. Local demographics and population trends make Morrow County and Hermiston School Districts an excellent recruiting ground. The Heppner Ranger District’s work center, Tupper, provides an ideal setting for the camp.

Our goal is to broaden the applicant pool from 2007. We’re now developing new partnerships with adjoining school districts and other agencies for 2008 and planning outreach/recruitment efforts for the next class in the fall of 2008. The Forest recently visited with junior classes to present an overview of the program in preparation for next fall’s camp.

Our long-term vision is to create a self-sustaining career orientation camp that is strongly supported through partnerships with our local communities. We want to maintain a high level of participation from women, minorities, and persons with disabilities, and to provide a portal from which camp graduates may obtain permanent positions in fire and fuels throughout the region. For more information on the project, contact Kristen Marshall at kmarshall@fs.fed.us or (541) 676-2130.