Logo for Recovery.govNews.bytesNews.bytes Extra, issue 420

"This job came at a good time"

“This job came at a good time -- it helped out for Christmas,” says Jason Hill of the Cahuilla Band of Indians, Anza, Calif.  “It’s good to be working again.  I used to work in construction, but of course that’s all dried up now.” (text continues below)

A worker sprays brush to help with future fire control

Hill is one of 13 on a crew clearing brush above Poppet Flat, a community in the foothills of the San Jacinto Mountains of Southern California.  Kristen Allison, Bureau of Land Management Forestry Technician explained that the project was made possible by stimulus funding, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.  “The project was a win-win for everyone,” said Allison.  “The fire-suppression contractor – Firestorm – is slow during the off-season and was eager to be able to hire.  The contractor went to a local reservation, the Cahuilla Band of Indians, and found people eager for work.  The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) paid for the safety training classes needed by the recruits, while the Department of Labor bought the men boots and gloves.”

Charles Guachena III, also of the Cahuilla Band of Indians, believes the experience will lead to more opportunities for his reservation.  “Unemployment on the reservation is very high – there’s just no jobs to be found.  Working on this fire-suppression crew gives us confidence that we can form our own certified crew for fire fighting and fire suppression.   And again, the BIA has promised to help with training expenses.”

In 2000, the BLM and California Department of Forestry began working on a large-scale, interagency fuel break to protect Poppet Flat and other nearby communities.  The strategy paid off in 2006 when the devastating Esperanza fire jumped Highway 243 headed toward Poppet Flat.  As the fire approached the community, the fuel breaks slowed its progress.  When it hit the prescribed burn, the fire headed north around the community, giving the residents the ability to remain in the community or “shelter in place.” 

“Without stimulus funding, fuel reduction in this area would not have happened this year,” said Allison.  “And without stimulus funding, 13 out-of-work men would not have had a job.”

Four men work to remove fire-prone brush on a hillside
From left, Tim Thornsberry, Andrew Peterson, Charles Guachena III, and Jason Hill.  Peterson is on break from  college.  Thornsberry, Guachena, and Hill live on the reservation and had been laid off from their previous jobs.

- David Briery, BLM California Desert District, 2/1/10

BLM-California News.bytes, issue 420