By CAL FIRE Communications

CAMARILLO – On Saturday, March 23, cadets from the first graduating class of the Ventura Training Center (VTC) received their certificates of completion for the enhanced firefighter training program. A total of 24 cadets, 14 from VTC and 10 from the California Conservation Corps (CCC), spent 22 weeks learning and training in courses such as firefighter safety, communications, structural firefighting and hazardous materials.

“These firefighters offer an invaluable public service and help protect our communities in their time of great need,” said CDCR Secretary Ralph Diaz. “The Ventura Training Center is a vivid example of the great work that state agencies can do through collaboration and a vision that aims to ensure that returning citizens are given an opportunity to acquire skills, training, and knowledge that will result in better job prospects and opportunities.”

VTC is a partnership of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), CCC and CDCR to provide enhanced firefighter training and certifications. Trainees are people on parole who have recently been part of a trained firefighting workforce housed in fire camps or institutional firehouses operated by CAL FIRE and CDCR.

The nonprofit Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC) provides life skills training and resources, including education and employment assistance, and community service referrals.

Training and certification is also available at VTC for up to 20 traditional CCC Corpsmembers, who participate in Phase 2 of the program, which entails firefighter training taught by CAL FIRE, resulting in industry-recognized certifications.

The VTC cadets will move on to the next phase of the program, where they will spend the next 12 months assigned to a Type 1 Firefighting Handcrew. While continuing to learn and train, this crew will respond to wildfires across the state. When not assigned to an incident, they will complete fire prevention and mitigation project work in the local area.

“These cadets have worked hard to get to this point, putting in an incredible amount of time and effort to make sure they successfully completed each portion of this training,” said Chief Thom Porter, director of CAL FIRE. “Their dedication to this program will undoubtedly carryover into the next phase – helping protect and serve the citizens and natural resources of our state.”

The CCC cadets will return to their CCC centers and fire crews, where they will share their experiences and encourage other Corpsmembers to pursue the training opportunity.

“The bottom line is that this program shows promise of making huge impacts by giving these young men and women a leg up and not a hand out, to become citizens with the what the California Conservation Corps calls the three C’s: character, credentials and commitment,” commented Bruce Saito, CCC director.

Several CCC graduates have already been hired as firefighters, one with CAL FIRE and six with the U.S. Forest Service. Completion of the Basic Firefighter Academy makes the Corpsmembers eligible for entry-level wildland firefighter jobs with CAL FIRE and the U.S. Forest Service.