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Two Blackwell Job Corps Firefighting Students Head to Illinois

Ken Krall WXPR

Two student wildland firefighters from the Blackwell Job Corps Center near Laona are headed to southern Illinois to get hands on training learning to fight fires.

The eight person team includes employees from the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, Blackwell Job Corps Center, and other units.. The group left Wisconsin Wednesday.

Assistant Fire Management Officer for the Chequamegon-Nicolet, Lee Jensen, says the local students go as part of an agreement with the Shawnee National Forest. He says this real life training is invaluable...

"....so they're getting the on-the-job skills to be profitable after Job Corps. On the job training as real as it can get...."

The group will receive their specific assignment when they get to Illinois. They will be supporting prescribed burns and staffing current wildfires with paid professionals. Kevin Gow is one of the Blackwell students headed to southern Illinois. He says he's been looking toward the opportunity for a long time...

"....all my life... I've been excited to do it just ready to get this opportunity under my belt. It's a once in a lifetime chance to experience something like this...."

Jelani Bunn echoed Gow's feelings that it was a unique opportunity...

"...it is truly something that I could take back and see what I want to do with my life. I'm truly undecided at this point and to work hand-in-hand with professionals is another great opportunity to learn and grow in an even deeper way than before so it's a great opportunity..."

The Forest Service started the wildland firefighter training program at Blackwell in 2014. Since then, more than 80 students have been certified as Wildland Firefighters and 65 are participants in the program are working towards certification.

In past years, Blackwell student firefighters have supported fire staffing needs and wildlife suppression efforts in Wisconsin and several other states, prescribed burns all over the upper Midwest and various fuels reduction projects.