State fire crews are usually readying for a dry fire season by now, but late-winter storms has them digging out from feet of snow.
More than a dozen CDCR conservation camp hand crews are helping CAL FIRE respond to storm-damaged communities. Camp crews from San Bernardino, Madera, Mariposa, and Placer Counties are helping residents by clearing record snowfall and storm debris from rooflines, driveways, and fire hydrants.
Snow packs can bear weight on fragile gas meters, creating dangerous pockets of potentially explosive gas. CAL FIRE crews have responded to at least three house fires caused by gas leaks in the Big Bear area, making access to fire hydrants essential. CDCR crews are also splitting up into smaller supervised groups to go door-to-door alerting residents of potential hazards and getting them to safety.
“A lot of people up here right now are on vacation and were supposed to leave days ago,” said Oak Glen Camp Commander Lt. Brian Sloat. “The locals were pretty prepared for this, but unfortunately some trips probably didn’t go as planned and they’re running out of food. Thanks to our efforts, they’ll make it home.”
Last week, Governor Newsom issued a state of emergency for 13 counties. East of Los Angeles in San Bernardino County, Big Bear City got over 80 inches of snow in a week. The snowfall broke the previous record set in 1976 by over two feet, according to the National Weather Service. Storms are forecast to continue through at least the rest of the week, bringing even more snow to already buried areas.
Heavy snow collapsed the roof of a grocery store in Crestline, making food delivery to the area a high priority. Oak Glen’s Mobile Kitchen Unit (MKU) is serving 1,500 meals a day to everyone at base camp. Lt. Sloat expects that number to increase as more people arrive to help.
Neighbors are sharing their gratitude on social media and in person. This is just one way the Conservation Camp Program can be an important part of an incarcerated person’s rehabilitation. Volunteers perform a vital service for the community while they serve their sentences with CDCR.
By Tessa Outhyse, Public Information Officer
Office of Public and Employee Communications
Photos by Camp Commanders Lt. Paul Parsons (La Cima), Lt. Galvin Ratliff (Washington Ridge), and Lt. Jennifer Mowery (Eel River) and Lt. Armando Espinoza (Prado)