The future of forestry education: hands-on experience available from Fire Science and Natural Resources programs at UCC
This fall, Umpqua Community College’s Natural Resources program has expanded, adding three new tracks in natural resources: Fish and Wildlife, Forests and Ecosystems, and Conservation Law Enforcement. For Conservation of Law Enforcement, students will take classes in criminal justice and law enforcement, and the program aligns more with Oregon State University, so the transfer is a lot smoother and more straight forward. For students who are more into the fire component of forests, the Fire Science program takes two years with the option to add a third year for the paramedic degree.
Both programs at UCC should be started in the fall to earn an associate’s degree, and neither requires prerequisites.
The natural resources program lays the groundwork for future employment in national forests and allows students to use UCC’s 100 acres as a lab; the river is used for the study of hydrology and different plants for botany. “It allows a student to embark on a journey,” Bryan Benz, the natural resources contact and an associate professor of science says.
Covid has been a barrier to field trips, but the program uses contacts with state and other agencies for land areas to visit. The Archie Creek that devastated Douglas County and its communities this last fall has been an opportunity to show students what land looks like after it has been majorly burned.
During the summertime, these students can get an internship working with the Bureau of Land Management or even the parks system. UCC posts the opportunities, and students can sign up and apply for them.
Benz says that, before teaching, he got paid to go out in the forest and look up plants, and that he enjoyed recreational activities as part of his job.
“Come and do natural resources; it is open to anyone and there are no prerequisites. If someone likes being out in the woods, come find out what it is all about. Often times on the first day of class, students do not know what they want to be, and it’s a great way to find out,” Benz says.
In the Fire Science program students experience simulations and opportunities to learn about the elementals of fire. The classes cover basic components of firefighting like putting the nozzle on the hose, doing search and rescue with smoke in rooms, learning about the foundation of fire and building construction, along with studying fire prevention.
Often times, students who are in their second year of the Fire Science program already get hired and have employment options.
Students train at places, like at one location on Harvard Ave., where they have an opportunity to cut out walls in a real building. Sometimes, they get to visit places and look at sprinkler systems for the fire prevention class and look at structures around the community for the building class.
Students can volunteer at fire stations and get a good idea of what they want to do for their career. At UCC the instructors for the program all have experience as actively working firefighters.
“This program is great for students to meet people in the district and ask questions,” Andy Hatfield, Fire Science coordinator says. “There is no rigorous application process, you don’t need any experience, and if you have some experience; it’s good just to get in contact with me, and we can talk about the classes you should take.”
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