San Rafael, CA – A new wildfire fuels reduction program from Marin County fire agencies and several community partners will have innovative first-of-their-kind residuals that will not only give a boost to public safety but to engage underserved local job seekers as well.
The FIRE Foundry cohorts will provide job training for local underserved, underrepresented, and underfunded communities while enhancing public safety for Marin residents.
The objective of the new Fire Innovation, Recruitment & Education (FIRE) Foundry is to use emerging fire science technology to provide job training and skills development for local underserved, underrepresented, and underfunded communities. Program recruitment this fall will be aimed at populations that have traditionally been underrepresented in fire services. The target is to have the first cohort in place by the end of January 2022.
Marin County Fire Chief Jason Weber and program partners presented the proposal October 12 to the Marin County Board of Supervisors and received enthusiastic support. The group is now authorized to enter into agreement with Conservation Corps North Bay (CCNB) starting in 2022 to provide a 12-person crew and one full-time supervisor to conduct fire fuels reduction work. The proposal, with an approximate cost of $2.2 million, will be paid for through billable service charges at a competitive market rate to private contractors and funding sources from the State of California.
The FIRE Foundry program is the result of nine months of collaboration between Marin fire agencies, CCNB, the Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority (MWPA), the Marin County Office of Equity, the University of California at Berkeley, Stanford University, and College of Marin.
“We believe recruits will be able to find and sustain full-time employment in the fire services or in a related field through this pilot program, which we believe is unique,” Weber said. “We are calling this an ‘earn and learn’ approach. Recruits will earn a wage and be supported with wrap-around services and mentorship to ensure their retention. The fire service has a long history of mentoring and coaching newer members. This program capitalizes on this, ensuring a workplace and culture that emphasizes equity and inclusion.”
CCNB is a job training program that provides young adults (ages 18 to 30) with opportunities to transform their lives through paid work, education, employability, civic engagement, and leadership. It has a long track record of partnering with the County of Marin, local municipalities, and other community organizations to conserve and restore natural resources and improve recreational and public areas. CEO Angel Minor said CCNB is proud to be a part of the FIRE Foundry collaboration.
“It enables us to build on decades of work helping prevent disasters in our community while creating equitable access to a new career pathway for the young people in our program,” Minor said. “The goals of the FIRE Foundry align with CCNB’s values of empowerment, sustainability, and community, and we are eager to work with our partners to build a diverse, highly skilled workforce for years to come.”
FIRE Foundry will serve as a pipeline between innovative research and development in fire science, project-based learning for those with limited access to sustainable-wage careers, and the evaluation of emerging fire technologies. The program will develop and implement curriculum for certificate-based fire science courses taught at College of Marin by researchers, industry experts from across UC Berkeley and Stanford, and senior fire personnel. Foundry participants will receive transferrable units that can be applied toward a two- or four-year degree, ultimately better qualifying them for full-time employment.
The MWPA, a joint powers authority created in 2019, is eager to put the new crew to work when it is ready.
“As the local leader in wildfire prevention, MWPA is committed to participating in this program and providing funding to pay the work crews doing this important work at a competitive market rate,” said MWPA Executive Officer Mark Brown. “The growing and un-meetable demand of wildfire prevention work is ever-increasing. To meet this demand, we need to expand conventional recruitment and provide opportunities for sustainable-wage career paths. In terms of public safety, a key component of our future success will be the work of the FIRE Foundry program.”
A website for the program is in development, but a recruitment video for seasonal firefighters is available to view. Those interested in the FIRE Foundry program may email email@example.com. Learn more about local wildfire prevention efforts on the Marin County Fire website, the MWPA website, or the FIRESafe Marin website.