By Lt. Charles Gilmore, AA/PIO

ISHI 3Ishi Conservation Camp (CC #18) held its 29th annual “Ishi Preparedness Exercise.” recently. Cal-Fire/CDCR inmate fire crews from nine of the eighteen Northern California Conservation Camps traveled to Ishi to participate in this year’s event, making it the largest Conservation Camp Preparedness Exercise in California.

Forty-seven fire crews from Antelope, Deadwood, Devil’s Garden, Intermountain, Ishi, Salt Creek, Sugar Pine, Trinity River, and Valley View Conservation Camps boarded the Emergency Crew Transports to Ishi in an effort to qualify as Type I Firefighting crews. Type I Fire Crews travel statewide to fight wild land fires in California each year. Each of the crews has to meet strict criteria to be certified annually.

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As part of the exercise, crews are required to demonstrate proficiency in “tooling up” and fire shelter deployment. They are tested on their knowledge of the Ten Standard Fire Orders, and Eighteen Situations that Shout Watch Out, commonly known as the “10’s and 18’s”. They are also required to hike a four-mile course under seventy minutes and to cut three hundred feet of fire line in one hour.

ISHI 7This exercise is taken very seriously by staff members as well as the inmates, who tend to turn this into somewhat of a competition, all striving to qualify and to outperform the other teams.

As well as fighting wild fires, these inmate fire crews provide valuable labor in communities across the state. Brush clearing projects, fencing, fuel breaks, Fire Safe Council and public school projects are just some of the vital work these teams provide.

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The program has been a success for the inmate participants as well, as many of them go on to be firefighters for private and government agencies after they get out of prison. Some have gone on to be Fire Captains and Fire Chiefs for these outside agencies. One Cal-Fire Captain was quoted as saying, “These guys are well trained and they know how to work. They are taught a work ethic that they did not possess before they came into this program”.