Friday, November 9, 2007

Firefighter Wards Return to Camp to Earn Diplomas

DJJ Pine Grove Youth Conservation Camp Graduates 34

PINE GROVE – Pine Grove Youth Conservation Camp honored 34 young men in its 12th annual graduation ceremony today. The camp provides response to all types of emergencies including wildfires, floods, search and rescues, and earthquakes. In the last year 22 students have earned a full high school diploma, and twelve students have passed the GED exam.

Many of the wards honored in today’s ceremony spent the last six weeks assisting other state firefighters in battling some devastating wildland and urban fires. Most recently the wards were dispatched to a number of Southern California fires, in an effort to save lives and protect structures at risk from fire damage.

“Wards who leave our youth facilities and camps prepared with the right education can make positive contributions to the community. Giving these wards a chance to perform public service work can truly change their perspective on life. By equipping youth with the tools they need to succeed upon release we will reduce recidivism, and improve public safety,” said Bernard Warner, Chief Deputy Secretary for the Division of Juvenile Justice. “Strategies to reduce recidivism provide enormous public safety benefits and are key components of the Governor’s vision for long-term reform.”

“This is an incredible accomplishment for these young men and we are very proud of them,” said Pine Grove YCC Superintendent Mike Roots.” It takes a focused effort on their part to complete their schooling as well as keep up with the other demands on their day. They are responsible for working all day with CALFIRE captains on community service projects, responding to fires and other emergencies whenever they are called upon, and completing their board-ordered groups. At night, when all of us are at home relaxing, they are going to school and attempting to finish their education. Their graduation is truly a day to celebrate!”

Superintendent Roots noted that this is the largest group of graduates the camp has ever had.

“It is quite an accomplishment to have this many graduates out of the 80 wards assigned to the Camp program,” Roots said. “Not only should the ward be congratulated, but also the staff of this camp, from cooks to counselors, as well as the CALFIRE staff.”

Honorary speakers today included CALFIRE Captain Howard Drummond and Superintendent Mike Roots. Several dignitaries from Education Services Branch as well as our school Principal were also in attendance. Many family members joined the celebration with their graduates as well as members of the local Pine Grove community that donate service hours to the camp.


The Conservation Camp Program is one of the most successful collaborations in California’s history and dates back to 1946. The CDF, and CDCR Adult and Juvenile facilities jointly operate 41 Conservation Camps statewide that house nearly 4,000 inmates and wards. When they are fighting fires or completing various conservation projects they are under the supervision of CALFIRE. There are 198 fire crews serving California year round under this system. These crews are available to respond to all types of emergencies including wildfires, floods, search and rescues, and earthquakes. When not responding to emergencies, the crews are busy with conservation and community service work projects for state, federal, and local government agencies. Fire crews perform several million hours of emergency response each year and more on work projects.