By Sierra Conservation Center staff
Following the significant fires in Southern California this year, a torrent of rain almost immediately followed causing some of the worst mudslides in California history. Inmate firefighters from Sierra Conservation Center, supervised by CalFire, once again responded to the call for help from the community.
Lt. Gabriel Romo was the agency representative for CDCR assigned to the incident.
He gave this first-person account:
“In my 28 years as a Correctional Employee with over 15 years of camp experience, I have never observed the type of devastation to an entire community, as I witnessed in January 2018 after the mudslides in Montecito.
“I witnessed entire homes completely destroyed, leaving only the foundation. Other homes were left in complete ruins from the mud and debris. Vehicles were crushed to the point where they were unrecognizable. I equate the damage that I observed to an apocalypse.
“I also witnessed over 500 CDCR staff and inmates respond to aid this entire community. Our staff and inmates put forth their very best team effort, working tirelessly for over two weeks in a professional and respectful manner to aid the community.
“During this incident, I spoke to numerous staff and inmates. The most memorable being a conversation I had with an inmate who informed me that it made him feel good to help the people of this community and it was the first good thing he had ever done in his life.
“It reminded me that the Conservation Camp Program is truly rehabilitative. It is a positive environment that provides important life skills and an invaluable labor force for the citizens of California.”
The affected communities have written numerous letters thanking our inmates and staff for all their hard work.
Acting Warden Hunter Anglea said, “I am so proud of the team here at Sierra Conservation Center who work diligently classifying, testing and training inmate firefighters to respond to emergencies throughout California, including wildland fires, floods and landslides.”
He said, “In the years I’ve worked at the California Correctional Center and at Sierra Conservation Center, it has led me to believe the Conservation Camp program is immensely valuable to the taxpayers of California and to the inmates involved in the program for the rehabilitative skills they learn.”