Community Involvement, Firefighters

CDCR crews keep storm damage at bay

Incarcerated worker points while others lay plastic
Delta Conservation Camp Crews work quickly to lay plastic and sandbags to prevent flooding

Staff, incarcerated people help their communities

When the storm hits, CDCR and its partners step up. As part of storm response efforts statewide, staff and crews from Delta Conservation Camp were hard at work Jan. 6 filling and stacking hundreds of sandbags to protect the Grizzly Island Wildlife Area. Crews from Konocti Conservation Camp in Lower Lake arrived this week to assist with the efforts.

CDCR, CAL FIRE, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife worked together as an efficient unit, filling, transporting and stacking sandbags in the event of a levee breach.

“Thousands of acres of land and infrastructure are at stake,” said CAL FIRE’s A. Rocha as he oversaw the crews alongside CDCR Officers R. Whalen and C. Ross. “We are protecting the watershed and preventing the levee from giving way.”

S. Barnes, a habitat assistant for Fish and Wildlife, said without the help from CDCR crews, there was no way the work could get done so quickly. And with more rain on the way, time is of the essence.

Officer Whalen has worked for CDCR for 17 years, but started work at Delta Camp just a few months ago.

“This is really neat to see,” he said. “It’s a project that is for the public, and it gives the crews an opportunity to give back.”

That’s a sentiment crew member Chad Patterson shares. Patterson serves as the “swamper,” or team lead, on his crew.

“Obviously, we’ve all messed up,” he said as crew members methodically stacked sandbags and laid plastic over the threatened ground to prevent erosion. “For me, it feels good to just give back. It makes me feel good about myself.”

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Crews fend off storm damage statewide

Delta is far from the only camp doing this important work. Vallecito, Growlersburg, Gabilan, and camps throughout the state have been helping with sandbagging.

In the city of Chualar, crews built a 200-foot-long wall of sandbags to divert debris flow away from a grade school. They also filled 4,000 sand bags for citizens to use to protect their homes. Crews protected the Carmel River, and in Monterey County, Gabilan Camp filled and stacked sandbags to the tune of more than 23 tons of sand.

When not fighting fires, incarcerated crew members perform a wide range of conservation and community service projects, including clearing brush and fallen trees to reduce the chance of fire, maintaining parks, flood protection and reforestation.

Learn more about the CDCR/CAL FIRE camps and firefighters.

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