Thanks to financial support from the Tahoe Fund and the Merrill Family Foundation, Lake Tahoe Community College (LTCC) has hired a full-time director to oversee its growing Public Safety programs, including Forestry, Fire Science, Allied Health and Emergency Medical Services, and Criminal Justice.
After an extensive search, LTCC selected Adrian Escobedo as the new director of Forestry, Fire and Public Safety. In this role, Escobedo is charged with increasing the number of students served by these programs, and the number of graduates produced to fill crucial positions in these high-demand fields in the Tahoe Basin, California, and across the country. Escobedo, who starts in his new position on May 1, will focus on partnering with government agencies and private employers to ensure that LTCC students are well prepared and demonstrate the skills needed to work successfully in these fields.
“Adrian will focus on creating those pipelines straight from the classroom to the industries,” said LTCC Superintendent/President Jeff DeFranco. “Both the Tahoe Fund and LTCC understand just how crucial community colleges like ours are going to be to supply the public safety, fire, and forestry management expertise that’s desperately needed in the years to come due to climate change and increasingly extreme fire events. We are grateful to our friends at the Tahoe Fund and Merrill Family Foundation for understanding the importance of the mission and providing the funding for this position and supporting this skilled workforce development.”
LTCC initially secured federal grant funding to support a portion of the cost of this new director position through Fall 2026. A philanthropic donation from the Tahoe Fund and Merrill Family Foundation of an additional $200,000 over four years made it possible for LTCC to formally bring the position to the college.
“We are so proud to be a part of LTCC’s efforts to grow the region’s forestry, fire, and public safety workforces,” said Caitlin Meyer, chief program officer at the Tahoe Fund. “We started last year with scholarships for Forestry program students, and now, thanks to the Merrill Family Foundation, we’re able to double down on our commitment to the program by helping to fund this new position. We are thrilled Adrian has accepted the role, and are excited to support him as he helps students build careers in often-understaffed fields that are critical to keeping our landscapes healthy and communities safe.”
In recent months, LTCC has been awarded a significant amount of funding to support and expand its Public Safety programs. Through partnership with the California Community Colleges Foundation, LTCC was awarded $1.2 million in federal funds through the America’s Good Jobs Challenge program to support key staffing additions and crucial equipment purchases for the Forestry and Fire programs. LTCC also received $34,000 from the Tahoe Fund last fall to give $1,000 scholarships to every student in the Forestry program, which has led to robust student enrollment in the program’s first year.
Additionally, the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation awarded LTCC with a $100,000 grant from its Forest Futures program for required gear and equipment purchases, allowing even more students to enter and be well educated in these programs using the most modern equipment possible. Recently, the El Dorado Community Foundation committed $100,000 to support equipment for LTCC’s Fire Academy.
“All of this funding will allow us to greatly expand our Fire and Forestry offerings,” said DeFranco. “The increase in students necessitated LTCC having professional staff in place to organize and oversee program growth, manage various grants, make smart equipment purchases, hire additional and diverse faculty members, diversify the student body in these programs to better serve all Californians, and to create pathways for students to ultimately be gainfully employed in these fields.”
Escobedo has worked with many diverse entities and individuals during his career, including K–12 students and teachers, community volunteers, and local, state and federal partners. For the past 16 years, he has worked with the U.S.D.A. Forest Service and currently serves as its program specialist in South Lake Tahoe. He previously was their Legislative and External Affairs Staff Officer and the Forest Civil Rights Officer. He has also worked with the U.S.D.A. Forest Service in the El Dorado and Inyo National Forests, and as a Wildlife Biological Science Technician in New Mexico.
Escobedo is certified as a Firefighter 2 and Human Resource Specialist in the Wildland Fire Community, logging more than 1,700 hours of incident experience as part of the overhead team working with Fire personnel from multiple agencies and jurisdictions. He built the Generation Green program of Lake Tahoe, a summer youth employment program targeting underrepresented 15- to 18-year-old students.
As a California community college transfer student, Escobedo went on to earn his B.S. in Zoology from Cal Poly Pomona and his M.A. in Teaching from Sierra Nevada University. He is bilingual and bicultural, and has extensive additional training in grants, leadership, and conflict resolution.
LTCC is one of five community colleges in California that are part of a four-year project to increase the number of qualified workers placed into urgently needed jobs in California’s forestry sector. The state’s forestry and fire safety labor sectors have the potential to grow into a $39 billion industry; however, there are projected workforce shortages in the thousands in these areas. These jobs, which are often well-paying positions with benefits, include fire and forestry crew leads, conservation scientists, and U.S. Forest Service crew members, among other opportunities.
The Tahoe Fund is a nonprofit organization that supports environmental improvement projects in the Tahoe Basin. Their mission is to use the power of philanthropy to improve the Lake Tahoe environment for all to enjoy. One of the organization’s main strategic goals is to improve forest health by driving innovative solutions to increase the pace and scale of forest restoration in the Tahoe Basin through its Smartest Forest Fund. The Tahoe Fund coordinated this donation from the Merrill Family Foundation.