California Governor proposes hiring 16 additional firefighting crews

And, $1 billion for forest health and reduction of fire risk

Map smoke Apple Fire
Satellite photo by GOES-17 of smoke created by the Apple Fire in southern California at 7 a.m. PDT August 2, 2020. NASA.

The California Governor’s proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 asks for 16 additional firefighting hand crews. Governor Gavin Newsom also wants to establish 14 more California Conservation Corps (CCC) crews that are often assigned at incident command posts on fires to assist with Logistics and other support functions.

The budget document says, “The fire crews will enable CAL FIRE to respond to larger and more damaging wildfires throughout the fire season and complete priority fuel reduction projects to reduce wildfire risk in fire-threatened areas.”

One of the justifications for the additional personnel was the “existing population trends” in prisons that has reduced the number of inmates available for firefighting.

Forest Health

The Budget also includes $1 billion for a comprehensive package of resources to increase the pace and scale of forest health activities and decrease fire risk, including $581 million for CAL FIRE in 2020-21 and 2021-22.

New Helicopters

Funds to replace CAL FIRE’s 12 Vietnam War-era Huey helicopters with Sikorsky S70i Firehawks have already been received and allocated. Three new ships have been deployed so far, and it is estimated that four more will be put into operation sometime during the 2021 fire season (for a total of seven). CAL FIRE expects to put the remaining five helicopters into the fleet in 2022.

C-130H air tankers

The Budget includes $48.4 million to support the phasing in of seven large air tankers, C-130Hs. The 2019 and 2020 Budget Acts included funding for the aircraft that will be transferred from the federal government starting in 2021-22. The air tankers, currently owned by the U.S. Coast Guard, are being retrofitted by the U.S. Air Force utilizing $150 million in federal funding. CAL FIRE is continuing to prepare for the arrival of these aircraft by training and certifying new dedicated flight crews and mechanics, and cross‑training and certifying its existing pilots to fly the aircraft to assist firefighters. CAL FIRE is working with its federal partners to meet the expected 2021-22 arrival of the air tankers.


The budget also includes $5 million to provide a research grant to California State University, San Marcos to study enhanced firefighting equipment and strategies to protect firefighters from conditions present during wildfires in the wildland urban interface. 

What’s next

The Governor’s proposed budget will be considered by the legislature and will be subject to modifications before a final budget is passed.

Typos, let us know HERE. And, please keep in mind our commenting ground rules before you post a comment.

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+

13 thoughts on “California Governor proposes hiring 16 additional firefighting crews”

  1. About 40% of California inmates have returned to where second home, prison. Eight Cal Fire fire camps sit ideal, ghost towns. Needed, Cal Fire Crews supervised by an experience Cal Fire wildland fire captain. These Fire Crews (Cal Fire) crews have experience fire fighters, mobility and communication designed for initial attack. What is missing is an adequate number of these crews available for 2021. CCC is a logistical function of incident base, not part of Operations. CCC is very good at trash removal and handing out drinks. Is there UTF past history for their (CCC) services? Increase the CCC presents by fourteen crews? No waiting for your Gatorade.
    Research: five million dollars. Love those grants.

    1. I’ve met a lot of excellent firefighters (forestry techs) who got their start in the C’s.

      Never mind the fact that you do indeed need people doing the tedious, unglamorous work which keeps camp tidy, sanitary and stocked. Not the fact that more project fires means more logistics requirements and that extends to personnel.

      I hope you’re more courteous to these folks at ICP than you have shown yourself to be here. Duty, integrity, respect and all that.

    2. Just for clarification CAL FIRE has an agreement with CCC to staff Handcrews. The Handcrew program with CCC is separate from the CCC crews that work in camp. So this proposal would provide 14 additional hand crews with a CAL FIRE FC and CCC members.

      1. Brandon, the budget proposal has this: “…30 additional fire crews, including 16 seasonal firefighter crews and 14 CCC crews.” Are you saying the 14 CCC crews will be firefighters, rather than camp crews? If so, where did you get that information? Are you also saying that the new civilian firefighting hand crews CAL FIRE initiated in 2020 were provided by the CCC?

        1. Yes the 14 CCC crews are fire crews we already have 4 CCC Fire Centers(we call them fire centers not camps) that are running 2-4 fire crews already. The handcrews that we added in 2020 were seasonal FFI.

        2. Bill
          Brandon is correct. CALFIRE has for many years had a program with CCC for fire crews. This program has expanded before the recent loss of inmates due to Ca Legislation. Most recently expanding to Ventura. These crews have an excellent reputation and in my experience before retirement performed exceptionally. The expansion is just a continuance of a good idea. The FF crews are staffed by seasonal CALFIRE FF”s and the budget is for the most part a permanent budget line item from last year when they were introduced with emergency funding. I am sure there are enhancements, but I can’t comment on those.
          The term “camp crews” is used in a misleading way. This can mean inmate camp crews, camp support crews (ccc), or camp crews (ccc) for firefighting. We need to move away from the term. The CCC provides us in Ca a vital service from critical support in fire camps supporting kitchens, supply, and sanitation, to work on the fireline, and in some cases, rehab/suppression repair post fire.

    3. Ooof I felt that , yes we keep your camps clean I was had to go through a bunch of maggots in trash bags when throwing them out . I even climbed into the dumpster when working a fire camp ,as the trash man cussed me out and threatened to not take the trash as it was not compacted enough. I remember being pissed, as our crew broke down every box ,but the old people who ran the spike runs did not give a shit when throwing out their trash. The CCC used to get treated like shit when it came to the old school Cal Fire guys ,but the newer guys recognize our worth fortunately. We get up at 4 and go to bed around 9-10 the, worst part is that they could keep you serval weeks at camp for about without giving you a single day off. Often times , when your shift was up you would go back to center rest for the night and then get called out on emergency the next morning and that was considered your “day off”. Yes the firefighters are the heroes and do all the hard work we are just the shitty sidekick stuck with cleaning up after them . Due to bending labor laws they did not even pay us min wage (lol). You would be surprised how competitive people are for trying to make primary for Cal Fire at the CCC. The problem is often time our C1 (crew leader ) are used to conservation work and go into fire without knowing a single thing (as none of the C1 want to do it ,so they are forced to pick a C1). Fortunately, Feds and Cal send their guys to run the crew ,but when not on fire the C1 will have more power than the captain. With Covid 19 this summer, none of the forest service crews were sent out ,as they could not find enough fire captains to self quarantine ,so you had about 20 people who trained all year for fire picking up trash around the camps . Most of CCC centers are structured around conservation (not talking about Butte) ,so the C1 will be inexperienced when it comes to actual fire fighting ,I knew a C1 when asked by a corp member about when they would be getting fire chaps ,she didnt even know that fire required specialized chaps. Majority of kids at the center are willing to try fire ,but I am begging you please send us people who will veto our C1’s power in the interest of our safety. The CCC has a “book of rights”(right to be treated as adult, right to proper safety gear ,right to refuse to do a task if its unsafe ), but its a load of bs, usually when a C1 does something wrong a corp member wont file a compliant out of fear of retaliation by the C1.

  2. New concept how about we cut trees while there still green ???? Buffers on ridge tops and around community’s to start !!!! This is not rocket science the reason for these fires is the lack of Managment spending more money so these guys can piss in to the wind is stupid !!!! Let’s build more camps how about we train them before prison like out of high school or even before that in some more gang infested areas or low poverty areas … to be a part of the solution give them a life to strive for cost a lot less that way and we build a society that has respect for one another !!! These kids can help to clean up the forest by doing fuel modification projects and get payed to do so !!! Get payed good to do so !!! God bless America

    1. There’s an existing program that already does that: the CCC. In addition to providing camp support, the CCC has crews of young adults working on fuel reduction projects and even a few fire crews. Yet their funding gets cut every time we turn around, huh. One would think a program like that would get more support.

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