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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

CAL FIRE Camp Crews provide valuable service to the Community

For 67 years, CAL FIRE and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation have been operating Conservation Camps utilizing incarcerated men and women to fight fire and help protect the citizens their property and the resources of California.  The Conservation Camp program began in 1946 when the Rainbow Conservation Camp was established in San Diego County.  CAL FIRE is currently authorized to operate 196 fire crews year-round.
CAL FIRE Inmate Crews digging out mud from homes in the 2010 Christmas floods

 CAL FIRE in partnership with CDCR operates four conservation camps within the San Bernardino Unit.  These camps are Pilot Rock Camp near Crestline, Prado Camp in Chino, Fenner Camp near Valyermo in Los Angeles County and Owens Valley Camp near Bishop.  These camps house a combined total of nineteen crews of up to 17 inmates each.  While the primary mission of the crews is to respond to wildfires, the crews have also responded to numerous emergencies over the years.  So far this year, crews from the four CAL FIRE San Bernardino Unit camps have spent more than 15,500 hours fighting fires in California, most recently during the Mountain fire in Riverside County. The CAL FIRE San Bernardino Unit also operates in partnership with CDCR the women’s fire crew training facility at the Chino Institute for Women.  CIW provides female inmate firefighters for CAL FIRE camps in Rainbow and Puerta La Cruz as well as Los Angeles County Fire Department’s Malibu Camp.  Additionally, The CAL FIRE San Bernardino Unit’s Prado Camp is home to the only inmate helicopter fire crew in California.  The Inmate Helitack program has been operation for more than 20 years.
CAL FIRE Prado Camp helitak crew practices hover stepping during 2010 Tonner Canyon exercixes

CAL FIRE Inmate Fire Crew on the 2009 San Bernardino Fire
 In San Bernardino County, CAL FIRE crews not only fight fire and respond to emergencies such as the Christmas flood in Highland and the floods following the disastrous 2003 Old and Grand Prix fires, the crews also provide help and assistance to other state and local agencies.  Some of these efforts include assisting CAL TRANS in roadside maintenance and vegetation removal in the San Bernardino Mountains, along with project work for Corona, Yucaipa, Chino Hills, California State Parks and Orange County to name a few.  These projects amount to tens of thousands of hours of work annually. 

The crews can be used anywhere in California.  One example was the Christmas flood in the City of Highland where CAL FIRE utilized more than 30 crews from throughout California to mitigate the hazards to the local community.  Statewide, CAL FIRE operates 39 Conservation Camps in conjunction with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.  The camp crews are an important part of California’s emergency response resources providing more than 2.5 million hours of emergency response work every year. For more information about the Camp Program you can go to