Firefighters, Rehabilitation

Ishi Conservation Camp showcases firefighting skills

Fire crews cut a line through brush.
Crews practice cutting a line through heavy brush.

More than 40 fire crews converged on the Ishi Conservation Camp to train for wildland firefighting.

Kim Seibel, CDCR Associate Director – Reception Centers; Suzanne Peery, California Correctional Center (CCC) Warden; Steve Cagle, CCC Chief Deputy Warden; and many other CCC administrators and staff attended the 33rd Annual Fire Preparedness Exercise at Ishi Conservation Camp in Tehama County on May 9.

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.

Although this was a long day, the exercise was impressive for all who observed.

Ishi Conservation Camp was opened in 1961, at which time it was named Plum Creek Conservation Camp. The camp was closed in 1972 during the Vietnam War and the Ecology Corps controlled the grounds.

Between 1972 and 1975, Vietnam War Draft resistors were housed on the grounds. In 1975 the camp was managed by the California Conservation Corps. In 1982, it was renamed Ishi Conservation Camp and housed CDCR inmates.

Ishi Conservation Camp is currently operated by nine CDCR staff, and 14 California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) staff who work closely together.

Ishi Camp houses 110 male minimum-custody inmates who make up fire crews as large as 17 men in addition to others, including cooks, porters, clerks, landscapers, maintenance and launderers.

The primary mission of Ishi Camp is providing inmate fire crews for fire suppression activities in Tehama, Glenn, Shasta, and Plumas Counties. The secondary mission is to produce boxed, ready meals, for all firefighters to eat throughout the state.

The Inmate Fire Crews also provide a work force for conservation and community service projects in the local area including but not limited to; brushing roads and trails, fuel breaks, fence installation and removal, construction projects, trash and liter removal, building maintenance and clean up, clearing ditches, flood prevention, tree removal, weed abatement, and snow removal.

In 2017, inmates assigned to Ishi Conservation Camp worked a total of 92,060 hours on grade projects, 20,314 of those hours were within the community on local projects.

Staff and Inmates take pride in participating in the Annual Lassen County Hobby Craft Fair by donating handcrafted items. The Inmates reveal their talent and skill set by building beautiful handcrafted wooden items such as chairs, benches, jewelry boxes and clocks. The items are donated to benefit crime victims.

CDCR’s primary mission is rehabilitating inmates for a successful release from custody, and firefighting is a close second. This fiscal year, 27 Inmates have earned their General Education Diploma’s (GED) while at Ishi fire camp.

Some Inmates have even taken advantage of the college classes offered through Sacramento State University to be certified in Water Treatment/ Sewage Management, which will provide them with additional job opportunities upon release.

Additionally, Lassen Community College, Feather River College and Coastline College all provide correspondence courses for the inmates to better their education while incarcerated.

Story by Lt. Charlene Billings.