The California Conservation Corps, which hires and trains young people ages 18 to 25 (and military veterans up to age 29), recently turned 40. This year the Fortuna CCC center trained 38 new corpsmembers to be firefighters and provide fire camp support.
The CCC's motto is "hard work, low pay, miserable conditions ... and more!" Fire season, which sees especially miserable conditions and hard work, is nevertheless a welcome time for many corpsmembers, with extra pay and a chance to shine in front of potential future employers. Three of last year's Fortuna trainees went on to jobs with the U.S. Forest Service, and one was hired on a private engine.
Justin White, who worked on last year's Lassic Fire and is now beginning his second year on the CCC's fire crew, sent us his thoughts:
Early mornings, hot days, long nights and a little sense of belonging.
If you think you're in shape to be a firefighter, I'd encourage you to think again.
Early mornings, hot days, long nights and a happier bank account.
Some days are long, some seem to fly, but every day on the fireline is a learning opportunity and a chance to grow.
There are some jobs out there where you are sitting in a chair the majority of the day. Out on the fireline, when you get a few minutes to find a flat enough rock to sit on, you can sit with a sense of earning that rock.
Being a firefighter is not easy. Everyone seems to think that firefighters have it made and our job is really cool. Little do they know that it really sucks. But for the proud few that choose to earn the title of a firefighter, we would not have any other job in the world. It is one you learn to love more than anything else.
When you're a firefighter, there are two things you look forward to in a day, other than the fire itself. One is taking your boots off at the end of the day. Which in some cases, may not be until the next day. The second is lunch, which also in some cases may not come until you're waiting for dinner.
When you're a firefighter, there are a few rules to live by. One: Don't mouth off to anyone outranking you. Two: It is always day one. And three: It isn't over until you're in your sleeping bag, and even then it may not be.
Some days, the hardest part of being a firefighter is putting your boots on in the morning.