Training program

Former inmate firefighters create firefighter team and training program


Trainee firefighters with the Forestry and Fire Recruitment Program. Image from LA Times video.

Brandon Smith and Royal Ramey gained experience fighting fires while incarcerated at a California facility for wildland fire crews. After being released, they eventually got firefighting jobs with government agencies, but it took them two years. When they met their former team of inmates while assigned to a fire, they were inspired to turn what they had learned into a training program designed for people with backgrounds similar to theirs.

They founded the Forestry and Fire Recruitment Program (FFRP) and have helped hundreds of men and women find jobs. The organization provides assistance to those formerly incarcerated in California conservation camps, but accepts participants from all backgrounds and backgrounds.

“We have been navigating a maze and we want to help others, so that they do not suffer what we have done,” said Mr. Smith, now executive director of the FFRP. He cites the positive impact of a recent state law allowing inmate firefighters to become eligible for firefighter jobs by having their records struck off after serving their sentence.

FFRP also provides forest fire prevention and risk mitigation services. Since 2017, they have grown to operate four teams formed in Southern California, including Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Ventura counties.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildfires for 33 years, he continues to learn and strives to be a fire student. View all articles by Bill Gabbert