During the Fire Preparedness Exercise, 43 fire crews were evaluated for safety performance, physical conditioning, and firefighting knowledge. The fire crews hiked approximately four miles to the “incident” site, constructed fire lines, and deployed fire shelters under simulated emergency conditions.
Two former inmates who now firefighters with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) shared their success story with inmates this spring at the Fenner Canyon Conservation Camp, located in the mountain range above Valyermo, CA.
Former CAL FIRE Deputy Chief Lee Winton left his expectations at home in his favorite chair when he ditched retirement to teach a semester of Fire Science 1 for Columbia College at Pine Grove Youth Conservation Camp in early February. Sixteen weeks and 17 passing grades later, Winton isn’t sure who learned from who. “I knew going in the door that I had never talked to an audience like this, and that it would be a challenge to work with people who have struggled so much in their lives,” Winton explained. “But it was a good challenge, and it became a very rewarding endeavor.
Tourists making their way to Lassen National Park, Burney Falls or the Lava Beds National Monument may not realize there is an inmate fire camp nearby with trained firefighters ready to help those travelers if they find themselves in danger. Intermountain Conservation Camp 22, tucked away in the pine trees at the base of Big Valley Mountain, is four miles north of the town of Bieber and its 300 residents. Surrounded by ranches and forest, the camp is home to some 70 incarcerated individuals. Overseen by CDCR and CalFIRE, the camp has roughly 20 employees, split between the two agencies.
Ed Stewart couldn’t help but grin when a Siberian tiger sprang from cover and charged 27 firefighters of the Pine Grove Youth Conservation Camp, before pulling up short at the secure fencing surrounding its massive enclosure. “That’s a good thing,” the president and co-founder of the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) told the alarmed youth. “That means he sized you up and figured he could take you all.” The firefighters who visited the animal sanctuary recently returned from a busy fire season in Southern California and along the coast.