California Conservation Corps at the Basin Complex
Incident: Basin Complex Wildfire
California Conservation Corps Big Help to Firefighters
"We couldn't do it as well as we do without them," said Paul Hefner, Deputy Incident Commander for California Interagency Incident Management Team 3 who made the comment about the California Conservation Corps at the Basin Complex, near Carmel.
He was acknowledging the 5 CCC crews from San Luis Obispo, Oxnard and San Jose who are working to support the over 2,000 firefighters engaged in the long running battle at the Basin Fire.
"The 18-25 year old men and women do a variety of tasks that make a big operation work smoothly and efficiently," he added. "Often we overlook their contributions because they quietly and efficiently do a job many may not fully recognize."
Their responsibilities include supporting the supply and food units at the Incident Command Post, helping with facility upkeep, maintaining the recycle program, and setting up or tearing down the large multi-acre camp located about 20 miles east of Carmel, along the Carmel Valley Road.
CCC agency representative Janet Wohlgemuth noted the "kids" gain an appreciation of working with firefighters, seeing new places throughout the state, and learning about career opportunities.
"The corpsman can network with other agency employees, see old friends, and provide a service that can lead to education and career opportunities," she said.
The current director of the CCC, David Muraki, himself came from the ranks when he started as a field CCC person in the mid-70's. Janet herself started as a firefighter with the CCC.
Heffner emphasized that the young adults involved in the program are productive, have a good attitude, and are a significant contributor to the operation of supporting the suppression effort.
"We are lucky to have such a great program in California, and the citizens of the state should know these young people are providing a service that we appreciate and recognize," he added.
CCC Director David Muraki said there are currently 801 corpsmembers -- 66 crews-- working under the direction of CAL FIRE and the U.S. Forest Service on fires throughout the state. Most of the CCC crews are assisting with logistical support at the fire camps; some corpsmembers have been dispatched by the Governor's Office of Emergency Services to help at an evacuation shelter.
"We've called out more CCC crews right now than we've ever dispatched in the Corps' history," Muraki said. "While right now we've switched from our day-to-day natural resource projects to disaster response, we'll be out there as long as they need us."
Corpsmembers work 12-to-16-hour days while assigned to a fire, for stints up to 21 days. The CCC began its fire response June 12, adding to its crews over the past two weeks. Crews have been called out from every CCC location in the state.
Established in 1976, the California Conservation Corps hires young women and men for a year of environmental work and emergency response. Typical projects include building parks and trails, planting trees, improving fish and wildlife habitat and much more. The CCC has responded to nearly every major wildfire since the program was established, and also helps with forest rehabilitation efforts when the fires are out.