By closing the youth fire camp, California will be losing a true opportunity to offer meaningful rehabilitation to youths who are incarcerated in our state.
By Steven “Slim” Butler,
Steven “Slim” Butler is a Registered Professional Forester in Santa Cruz County.
Re “Is California’s last youth fire camp worth saving?”; June 8, 2020
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The Ben Lomond Fire Camp is up on the mountain above our town of Boulder Creek. The camp was formerly a youth camp and has been converted to an adult camp. I have worked with these inmates for decades both the youth and now the adults. I act as a crew sponsor when utilizing the crews on “grade” projects when they are not fighting fire.
The sponsor represents the landowner or project partner. I lay out the project and provide direction and limited supervision to the crew through the work day. Jobs include things like non-native plant removals, shaded fuel break construction, pile burning, trespass trail obliteration, other wildland remediation and any job that requires a lot of muscle and a crew. The camp is paid a flat rate by the sponsor’s agency for each day they work on the project.
I feel the camps, both youth and adult, are valuable to the local community in which they are housed. I also strongly believe that for many of the individuals who I work with on these crews, that they take a lot more out of the program than the dollars they earn. I feel in the crew environment it is easy to respect these workers for the intensity they pour out on these jobs. I feel that respect is readily returned to the sponsors and captains at the camps.
It is also a great avenue to learn all sorts of things about nature when working in the field. I try to take a little break whenever something of interest is encountered. I actively support camp activities in whatever small ways I can, like providing areas for fire training and endurance training. The camps are really all about training. Closing the youth camp is a really poor idea. We will be closing a true opportunity to offer real meaningful rehabilitation to a significant portion of those youths incarcerated in our state.