CAL FIRE to hire more than 1,000 additional firefighters

More seasonal and permanent firefighters

(Revised at 11:15 a.m. PDT July 10, 2020)

Inmate crew carrier vehicles
Approximately 19 inmate crew carrier vehicles at the Eagle fire in San Diego County, which burned between Warner Springs and Borrego Springs, California. CAL FIRE photo, July 25, 2011.

With the COVID-19 pandemic reducing the number of inmate firefighters, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is scrambling to find enough personnel to handle the all important job of cutting fireline and mopping up wildfires.

COVID spreading through inmate crew camps and prisons has cut the number of inmate crews available from 192 to 94. Thursday California Governor Gavin Newsom said 12 inmate camps had to be quarantined last month due to the virus. Compounding the firefighter shortage was the early release of thousands of state inmates to create more space in the facilities during the pandemic, and before that, the state’s initiative to reduce the incarceration of those jailed for lower-level offenses.

The Governor announced the state intends to hire an additional 858 seasonal and 172 permanent firefighters. The agency has also changed the mission of six California Conservation Camp (CCC) crews to exclusively perform fire related tasks, two in the south and four in the north.

Lynnette Round, a CAL FIRE Education and Information Officer, said the $72 million needed to hire the firefighters will come from the already allocated Emergency fund.

CAL FIRE expects to begin hiring the firefighters immediately using current eligibility lists. They anticipate that a recruitment process will occur to increase the number of candidates beyond the current lists.

The increase in the number of employed state firefighters is part of  the agency’s effort to keep 95 percent of all fires to 10 acres or less.


(This article was edited July 10 to show that 172 permanent firefighters are being hired, in addition to the 858 seasonals.)

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

14 thoughts on “CAL FIRE to hire more than 1,000 additional firefighters”

  1. thats awesome,i know theres a purpose to using inmates,but i think its great theyre hiring again.maybe some of the young guys and gals out there will try to get hired,those that have lost jobs due to the covid-19 situation ya know?

  2. I think that’s great! I don’t believe criminals should be doing the work like the people that have had the training to do it, especially when the shut down the Hotshot crews this year. Criminals need to stay in prison where they belong!

      1. Well you know what the have criminal backgrounds they shouldn’t be getting the work the others can cane have without the criminal records. So it doesn’t matter to me if they have the training or not they stay in prision.

        1. I’ve gotta say I’m not particularly choosy about who comes around to keep the house from burning down.

          Can’t speak for calfire but there’s a lot more people with convictions out there saving life and property than you might expect. That includes hotshots and everyone else.

          Glad they’re hiring more perms.

          1. Hey Matt, I know there is a a lot with convictions out there helping fight fire in the summer, and I too wouldn’t care if a inmate saved my property from burning down. I was just happy to hear that Calfire was doing that instead of letting the inmates do the work, even though its cause of the virus. I hope you see where I’m coming from.

        2. Chad, I don’t like criminal behavior either. I hate all the meth zombies in my town who steal everything that isn’t bolted down. However, not every person in prison deserves to be locked down with zero opportunity to improve. Paul Manafort definitely deserves his lockdown, but some of the other convicts deserve a second chance and the opportunity to learn job skills. In my many years as a hotshot I worked with quite a few former inmates who were outstanding firefighters. I’m still close friends with them. I would guess the majority of the Cal Fire Inmate Firefighters don’t reform. But if guys like my friends can go through that program and then become functioning members of society then I feel it’s worth it. Plus they work incredibly hard on those crews. In my opinion they aren’t Type 1 crews because they can’t spike, they can’t split mods, their level of experience and fitness varies, their burn shows typically leave a lot to be desired, and their captains usually lack crew experience when they first get the job. However, most of the inmate crews I’ve worked with fill the necessary role and do it well.

          As somebody who moves the chess pieces in an area with a lot of multi-agency DPA boundaries, I want as many available crews as possible right now. At this point I don’t care if their trousers are green, blue, or orange. I’m grateful for all the times the Devil’s Garden, Intermountain, and Antelope Camp inmates have assisted me in putting my agency’s fires out.

          Yeah but by all means keep all convicted criminals in prison where they can sit around and learn new and exciting ways to commit crimes, overdose on drugs, and stab each other. Why would we want to use tax dollars to try to rehabilitate them by teaching hard work and valuable skills? As a California tax payer who’s getting robbed blind by this state, I’d like to see my money go to programs that help with convict rehabilitation as well as convict prevention through public education. As a lifelong resident of a prison town, I can assure you, everything that happens in the prison affects the community. If they’re in there stabbing each other and overdosing, our community ambulances and hospital resources are stretched thin. I prefer to have as many of them as possible doing things to help my community instead of burdening us.

          I’m not a bleeding heart who thinks we should let them all out. There are many inmates who should never get out and I’m glad I’ll never meet them because I’m a keyboard warrior, not a homemade knife fighting warrior. But a lot of them are just dudes who didn’t get enough dad time, they did some drugs, they stole something, they won a street fight, or they got a bad dui or three and they need to be shown a different way. Chad, I mean you no personal disrespect. Your opinion on inmates is the same as most of my coworkers and close friends. You could be right and they should all be locked up. This rant was just the opinion of somebody with seventeen years of wildland fire experience and over thirty years residency in a county with three prisons. I do agree with you that members of the public getting these job opportunities is great. I just disagree that all inmates should stay locked up for their entire sentence.

          Also, I agree with Matt’s old boss; the only difference between us and them is they got caught.

  3. Hey Big Mun and Matt,

    Wasn’t trying start a fight or anything like that. I was just voiving my opinion and was happy to see that maybe some of those Hotshot Crews that got shut down this summer will get work now. I know if it were my Hotshot crew back then I would be bummed.

    And also hearing Matt’s Boss saying, the only difference is they got caught and we didn’t, I agree also.

    1. Chad, I apologize if I came off a little agro. Rereading my comment I can see it was a long obnoxious rant. I wasn’t trying to start a fight either. I got carried away on my soapbox. I do hope everybody has a safe season. That’s all that really matters. Once again I apologize.

      1. Big Mun,

        No Need to apologize at all. Be safe! Like you others have said I have said I have worked along side inmates and they do there job, its I was just happy to see that CalFire was hiring qualified firefighters and this time even though its only cause if the virus. Be safe if your still out there on the line. And to all Fire Fighters Be safe!

  4. On the low end of the pay scale, if someone walks out of my digs with $1000 worth of stuff and fences it for 5 cents on the dollar for an 8-ball, I’ve gotta earn $5000 or $10,000 after taxes, medical, wheels and rent just to replace it, to recover from the theft. That’s the economy of it; crime always causes poverty.
    I’ve worked with offenders too. Some will make it, some weave in and out of prison, and some will die in jail.
    We all need mentoring and direction. We all need to experience positive things, and some need a reason to start that uphill climb. It always looks the very worst from the very bottom. We all need a reason, from there.
    “Deliver me, Lord, from the judgement, of the saints who have never been caught.”
    But if 6 months of my labor is only worth an 8-ball to you, the rest of your life isn’t worth much to me. So be very, very careful how you steal from me.

  5. Cal Fire and CDF before that have long experience working with inmate crews. My father’s first job with CDF back in 1957 was running the nursery at Parlin Fork, working with inmate crews. As a seasonal firefighter on an engine crew, I always loved seeing the inmates coming up the line, swinging brush hooks and McClouds like there was no tomorrow. A very small percentage of the inmates in the conservation camp program don’t work out and get sent back to prison. By and large, the program has worked very successfully at both putting out fires and saving lives and property and helping rehabilitate inmates to become successful members of society when they get out.

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