SACRAMENTO – The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has deployed nearly 1,000 youth and adult offenders and department staff to help combat the wildfire that has burned hundreds of acres since May 5 in Santa Barbara County.
“The Conservation Camp Program helps offenders learn valuable skills, teamwork and discipline that will serve them well when they are released from prison,” said CDCR’s Secretary Matthew Cate. “The citizens of California benefit by having a fully trained workforce able to respond to fires, while saving more than $80 million every year that otherwise would be paid to accomplish the same tasks.”
In total, 67 youthful offenders between the ages of 18 and 25 were dispatched from Ventura Youth Correctional Facility in Ventura and Pine Grove Youth Conservation Center in Pine Grove. On Thursday, they cut fire lines and put out hot spots in areas that were already burned by the Jesusita Fire. The DJJ fire crews joined nearly 930 adult inmate crews and department staff already dispatched to Santa Barbara County.
Since 1946, CDCR’s Conservation Camp Program has provided California with a well-trained, well-equipped workforce for fire suppression. More than 4,400 male and female inmates (200 fire crews) participate in the program annually. The crews respond to nearly every type of emergency, including wildfires, floods, search and rescue operations and earthquakes. They also log millions of hours annually on fire reduction and conservation projects and provide forest, range and watershed enhancement on public lands.
“Fighting fires is one of the most elite assignments in the Division of Juvenile Justice,” said Bernard Warner, Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) Chief Deputy Secretary. “These youths face the same risks and danger as everyone else on the fire line, but they come away with a sense of contribution to the community that’s critical to their rehabilitation.”
CDCR jointly manages 39 adult and juvenile camps with CAL FIRE and five adult camps with the Los Angeles County Fire Department. Only minimum-custody inmates may participate in the program. They must be physically fit and have no history of a violent crime, including kidnapping, sex offenses, arson or escape. Juvenile offenders earn their way into camp placement and must be free of major rules infractions. Offenders convicted of sex offenses or arson are excluded.
JESUSITA FIRE RESPONSE TOTALS (As of May 8, 2009) :
CDCR Division of Adult Institutions Conservation Camp Program deployed 1,216 inmate firefighters (82 crews) supervised by 92 CDCR staff.
Pine Grove Youth Conservation Center (Pine Grove) deployed 60 youths (4 crews) supervised by 6 CDCR staff.
Ventura Youth Correctional Facility (Camarillo) deployed 38 youth offenders (3 crews) supervised by 3 CDCR staff.
- View Fact Sheet on CDCR’s Conservation Camp Program.
- View Governor’s Press Release: 05/06 – Governor Holds Press Conference to Discuss Wildfire Awareness Week
- View Governor’s Proclamation of State of Emergency: http://gov.ca.gov/proclamation/12235/
- Background on Youth Conservation Camp Program: http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Juvenile_Justice/Facility_Locations/Youth_Conservation_Camps/index.html
- View Video of Inmate Crews Responding to Fires.
- View Video of Pine Grove Youth Conservation Camp Inmate Firefighters Preparing to Deploy to Fires (2008).
- B-Roll of Inmate Firefighters is available by calling (916) 445-4950.