Fuel Break To Reduce The Risk Of Wildfire At Boxelder Job Corps CCC


Box Elder Job Corps

The Black Hills National Forest is working with the Boxelder Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center (CCC) to implement a fuel break around the center.

The 23-acre fuel break project will include fuel reduction treatments (hand thinning and piling), as well as pile burning to reduce the threat of an unplanned wildfire to the center and improve the health of the forest.

The Boxelder Job Corps CCC is located on the Black Hills National Forest, approximately 14 miles south of Sturgis in the Novak area (just west of Nemo, SD). The center is operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service and is part of the nationally funded Department of Labor scholarship program for youth ages 16-24.

The center houses anywhere from 75-150 students and is a small campus, with dorms, classroom buildings, workshops, and admin buildings. The time it takes a student to complete their training or school varies, but the center is open year-round, and students live at the center, working straight through the summer, to complete their program.

During the planning phase of the fuel break project, Forest Service personnel met with students to go over the project specifications and flag boundary lines around the project area. Students learned the importance of natural resource stewardship, about how to mitigate fire danger around the wildland urban interface, and how to utilize GPS/GIS in the field.

“Boxelder Job Corps CCC offers its student the unique opportunity to earn a Natural Resources Systems credential as part of their high school diploma,” said Derek Sukstorf, center teacher. “This partnership project allowed students to earn credit towards the certification while providing valuable volunteer service to the forest. Their efforts will improve the safety of Boxelder Job Corps and the health of the forest for decades to come.”

“This project is about being pro-active in helping to protect the area from an unplanned wildfire by essentially creating a break of the fuels between the forest and center,” said Brandon Fischer, Acting Fuels Captain, Northern Hills Ranger District, Black Hills National Forest.

The project also falls in line with the goals of the National Fire Plan which is to prevent loss of life, reduce firefighter injuries, and lessen the damage to communities and the environment from severe, unplanned, and unwanted fires.

The project area, where the fuel break will be established, is currently overstocked with dense areas of seedling and sapling sized trees. Trees that are less than 8.9-inch DBH (diameter at breast height) and have been impacted by insect disease and/or other damage will be manually thinned, leaving the most vigorous and healthy trees within the stand.

“After the trees are thinned, they will be piled and burned at a later date, as conditions permit,” said Fischer.

The planning phase of the fuel break project is complete and implementation on the ground is planned for this fall. The thinning and piling project will be carried out by Boxelder students and fire crew.