Firefighter training offers opportunities for formerly incarcerated
On April 30, 2021, the Ventura Training Center (VTC) held a ceremony for the fourth, fifth, and sixth graduating classes. The graduation marked the culmination of over a year of dedication, commitment, and hard work. Not only did these Cadets endure challenging courses, they also overcame training amid the COVID-19 pandemic. And, it was one of the most demanding fire seasons in California history.
VTC started in October 2018 as a joint effort between The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), California Conservation Corps (CCC) and California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), in partnership with the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC). The group developed the enhanced firefighter training and certification program at the former Camarillo site of the Ventura Conservation Camp. Trainees are formerly incarcerated people, now on parole supervision, who have recently been part of a trained firefighting workforce housed in fire camps or institutional firehouses operated by CAL FIRE and CDCR.
CDCR Secretary Kathleen Allison addressed the graduates of VTC.
“I am so proud of the work you are doing not only for your fellow California citizens, but also for your families, for one another, and for yourselves,” she said. “This program is very special.”
VTC is an innovative program that offers elite fire training and certifications to make formerly incarcerated firefighters more competitive for professional jobs in their communities.
CDCR Fire Chief Joel Alvarado, from California State Prison-Corcoran (COR), was in attendance to show respect to the second participant from the COR firehouse to graduate from VTC.
“This is another great example displaying collaborative efforts to rehabilitate formerly incarcerated with the training of valuable skills. It’s excellent how multiple stakeholders, each playing a critical role, can successfully reach a goal,” said Chief Alvarado.
The graduates are now able to go forward and compete for positions in the fire industry. Many past graduates can find employment and contribute toward the safety of their communities and California.
Expungement helps with job prospects
Additionally, in September 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 2147 into law, which allows former non-violent incarcerated people who participated in a CDCR conservation camp fire crew to have their records expunged. This removes barriers so they can seek jobs as firefighters in the community. The new law went into effect on January 1, 2021. Learn more at https://www.cdcr.ca.gov/fire_camp_expungement/.