By Fenner Canyon Conservation Camp staff
Two former inmates who are 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.
Daton Harris and Royal Ramey shared their personal story, including the hardship and successes experienced in preparing and testing for various firefighting jobs.
Lt. William Mock, Camp Commander for Fenner Canyon, said, “They are an example of the rehabilitative possibilities presented during incarceration at a Conservation Camp, not only by what they did at the camp, but what they took with them upon release.
“Daton Harris and Royal Ramey have successfully completed their parole, and after considerable effort and the completion of college courses in ‘Fire Science,’ have obtained employment, first by the United States Forest Service and now by CAL FIRE.
“I commend them for their individual success, and appreciate their efforts to assist these inmates in making similar changes as they too prepare for release from custody.”
Harris said, “I was incarcerated from 2010 to 2013 and was involved in the wrong things, with the wrong thinking. Being assigned to a Fire Camp helped me to develop myself, to see better options and to be motivated to change.”
“I developed self-confidence and a desire for change, and began looking for opportunities. After repeated effort, fire behavior college courses and a number of wild land firefighting jobs, from private sector to United States Forest Service, I have now achieved my goal of working with CAL FIRE.”
“I am currently assigned to a CAL FIRE Station in Siskiyou County, and feel very fortunate. I enjoy my job and career, and look forward to going to work, and my future opportunities.”
“I hope that speaking with you, who are currently where I once was, will benefit you by letting you see that change is possible, and jobs are available if you can see the opportunities and options available to you. It’s what you do next that counts.”
Ramey said, “I did time from 2010 to 2014. I did my time in a fire camp, and actually enjoyed the work and the things that I learned. I was sleeping on my mom’s couch, dealing with my parole officer and generally frustrated with my circumstances. I was in a conversation with a forest service ‘hot shot’ (wild land firefighter) and got some information on applying for employment with the feds.
“After a few interviews, I got hired, and began to take college courses and gather the various certificates to make me competitive in the firefighting field. I recently got hired on an engine with CAL FIRE, and am excited for the opportunities and future career in front of me.
“If I can do it, so can you. I have made a one-page document that outlines the training, certificates, application and resume style that the various fire agencies evaluate when selecting new hire candidates.
“If you apply yourself, have a good-positive attitude, you can make the cut and have the future you are looking for….turn your life around, make better choices maintain that positive attitude and pursue a good career.
”Follow the four steps, define your goal, desire to succeed, plan your efforts and apply the plan…stay motivated and focused.”
Fenner Canyon is one of the 39 Conservation Camps located throughout California which are jointly operated by CDCR and CAL FIRE, providing approximately 196 wild land firefighting crews.