The Ventura Training Center (VTC) recently hosted an open house where media and members of the Ventura County Public Defender’s Office got a closer look at the program. The VTC offers a unique training opportunity for formerly-incarcerated firefighters to continue their professional education while performing an essential service for the state.
More than 100 participants have already found full-time employment with a variety of fire response agencies.
Program graduates become fully-certified wildland firefighters, and are highly qualified for positions with local, state, municipal, and federal fire agencies. In May 2022, more than half the cadets accepted positions with fire agencies before graduation.
A panel discussion featured current VTC cadets and agency leaders from CDCR’s Division of Adult Parole Operations (DAPO), California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), California Conservation Corps (CCC), and the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC).
Speakers addressed training and personal development, enrollment and graduation numbers, and other rehabilitative programs offered in support of basic firefighter training. Those programs include high school/GED courses, tattoo removal services, counseling, and easily accessible peer mentors. To date, 62 participants have received their high school diplomas.
Ventura Training Center open house showcases successes
Current participants discussed their drive to complete the 18-month program and find employment in the fire service profession.
“To have people who believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself, when I needed it most; it gave me motivation,” said Javon Wright.
“I’m more comfortable here sometimes than I am with my own family,” said participant Anthony Barajas.
Cadets demonstrated a “tool-out,” or the process firefighters use to prepare their equipment when responding to a wildland fire. They also showcased how they would approach a structure fire with a truck, hose, and ladder.
“When I was little, I wanted to be a superhero,” Wright said, beaming. “To fight fires, you need to be a superhero!”
Visitors were also given a tour of the facility, including the gym, common areas, classrooms, and equipment storage.
As of July 2022, the program has 60 participants. A new class begins August 8.
Success after graduation
While incarcerated, Henry Herrera discovered his new career, serving on a hand crew for three seasons at Francisquito Camp (#4). For his crime, Herrera spent eight years away from his family. To advance his career, he made the difficult decision to spend another 18 months away at VTC.
By completing the program, he knew it could make him a better provider. A month after his release, he was accepted and started training at VTC.
Graduating May 2022 with 25 other cadets, Herrera is now a wildland firefighter with CAL FIRE’s Lassen-Modoc Unit. He aspires to become a crew captain. He is currently pursuing his Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certification and record expungement through AB2147.
By Tessa Outhyse, Public Information Officer
Office of Public and Employee Communications