A collection of 57 firefighters at Pine Grove Youth Conservation Camp recently received their CPR/first aid certifications.

Story and photos by Judy Levenson,
Pine Grove Youth Conservation Camp teacher

California’s winter rains won’t allow a repeat of the nearly 7,000 fires that scorched Golden State landscapes in 2016, but trials remain for firefighters in CDCR’s 44 conservation camps — also tasked with flood and emergency medical response efforts.

The majority of CDCR’s inmate firefighters are adult offenders, but a collection of 57 youthful offenders at the Pine Grove Youth Conservation Camp (PGYCC) represent the oldest continuously operated fire camp in California.

Trainer Jim Self works with Nicholas Salazar and Drew Crabbe to assist their certification.

Those youthful offenders added comprehension of life-saving techniques to their response repertoire during the third-annual CPR/First Aid Certification Training at PGYCC Feb. 23. All 57 youthful offenders received CPR/first aid certifications.

Training included techniques that meets or exceeds the requirements for the designated workplace responder. Additional emphasis was on heat-related care, which is especially important for California firefighters.

Youth Correctional Counselor Jim Self and a pair of sergeants from the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) Training Center in Stockton made the trek to Pine Grove to certify youth firefighters.

Pine Grove Superintendent Alicia Ginn scheduled the safety training in preparation of the upcoming fire season, complementing the safety training all crew members receive from CAL FIRE. Whether working flood control or fighting wildfires, safety is top priority for CDCR fire captains and crews and the CPR/first aid training added an additional layer of security.

Self and the training team instructed youth using hands-on practice with the famed CPR model “Resusci Anne,” and her mannequin children.

In an average year, the Conservation Camp programs provide approximately 3 million person-hours responding to fires and other emergencies and 7 million person-hours in community service projects, saving California taxpayers approximately $100 million. Those projects include clearing fire breaks, restoring historical structures, maintaining parks, sand bagging and flood protection, reforestation and clearing fallen trees and debris.

Suisala Malepeai and James Williamson are instructed on the proper technique for holding an infant.