Cal Fire Crew Cuts


KMAN, brought up a good point

“There aren’t more boots,engines,fire stations,crews( IHC increased),CF crews( decrease by 15%) etc out there. Yet fires acreages,ROS, general intensity, and duration of season, has changed, but not the resources trying to mitigate.”

I have not heard much mail stream talk of the topic of the CF crew cuts this year, I think 30+( plus the conversion of Ventura to CCC parole camp) CF’s crews are the backbone of the department, We are definitely feeling it this year!!! CF fires are increasingly understaffed with golfs, which has led to losing lines, trying riskier assignments , or having to go more and more to the bigger box .The thought was to raise the number of bodies on the crews, which has helped as little, went from 12 to 15, basically. I think alot of us would have rather kept the extra crew with fewer fellas on it. I have yet to hear of a realistic plan on CDCR’ part to supply more “orange storm troopers”. AB109, Prob 47 &57 have really hurt CF’s crew numbers.
Just $.02 from a “grumpy crew captain”


We at LA County, have been running 12 man & women crews from the start (1980’s) . But I think there is more to this. Like the availability of inmates that qualify for the camp program. All inmates headed to fire camps go thru Cal Fire training. If inmates are not available, crews will be smaller or eliminated. we will have to see what happens. I agree with running short crews as opposed to eliminating crews. Although fly crews are different, many times we flew in with a lot less but were able to handle the job.


How about we stop using inmates and cut out the CDC cost, then our crew numbers would not fluctuate with the political climate. Then maybe we could keep a crew together for more then a couple months and actually get them type 1 status, they would be much more versatile then our current configuration. Not to mention the increased productivity from people who want to be there, not have to be there. The CDC honor camp system served its purpose but in the last 100 years we have moved into a new arena and we need the crews to follow suit.


Or does there need to be modification of what there is. Spidey senses say there’s something in the works. Change takes time.

…and use???

Key point to remember as a team player, subordinate or supervisor…
DON’T call out a problem and poke someone’s chest, UNLESS you bring solution(s) to the table.

Productive thoughts?

Do current Crew configuration or staffing NOT work? Orrrr could some Sharpe edges be polished up a bit to make a more efficient model?


I think he was saying that eliminating the cost of CDCR from con crews might pay crew members’ actual wages on free crews.

I have no idea if the numbers would work for this or not.

What about intangibles like having a pool of crew-experienced people on engines later. Learned to do more with less.


Let’s not overlook the upcoming S-70 rotor platform. A helitack crew of 8 can go to 12-14 plus captains easily. That suddenly opens up some opportunities. Attack on both flanks at once, double time on one flank, etc. Two crews of 7, each with a captain, on the ground within 20min of dispatch with a T1 copter backing them up? :thinking:

As far as inmate crews, it’s important to remember inmates, especially those appropriate for fire crew, are a finite, potentially dwindling source. Politics creates or removes criminals at the stroke of a pen.


The inmate crews operate at a fraction of the cost of “free” fire crews. Those crews save the state over 80 million a year in savings not to mention CDCR has a viable program that can actually help reintegrate these inmate back into our society. I would think as a tax payer we would want that instead of paying for them for ever. Trying to destroy one program to push politics for another isn’t the answer and if you don’t like being a crew captain then give up the 10% extra they pay crew captains and go back to the station.


Alright everyone, this is an important issue that I know many people have been thinking about and discussing, BUT I can feel the tension rising. Let’s make sure we keep things civil, and are not attacking each other.


Lots of layers to this, just like everything in how we fight fire. Numbers are important and any talk about them should be supported by real data, not opinion. I’d be interested in hearing what all of the CDCR costs are to run the program.


Interesting read and reality check that gives some cost analysis.

2013 cost analysis engines and crews

It in summary on page 12
“the cost in 2010 for the municipal Lake Tahoe Type 2IA hand crew.9
The charge per person,
per hour was $38.51, for a total of $9242.00 over a twelve-hour shift. However, the backfill rate was
$57.76 per person, per hour and a 10% administrative fee, for a total of $105.89 per hour per person,
275% higher than the base rate, which would have been reflected as the crew’s cost in I-Suite. Use of
this crew cost the taxpayer $25,414.00 for a twelve-hour shift”


I think with all the money being put into fuel reduction and fire prevention, the idea of having full time crews is a reall possibility. There would have to be a plan to transition folks out as I don’t think many people are capable of doing 25 years running a saw or dragging a tool.


We have been and are doing the Fuels reduction with the cf crews. Thats another cost savings with cf crews. In the 10s of millions annually doing fuels for USFD, BLM, NPS, Local Gov, Non profit, Public utility districts, and schools just to name a few


Kman, Im not following the math on the rate plus backfill as the total cost.

You pay the backfill rate everyday for all muni staffed resources but you dont add the base rate on top of that.

Im on my regular day assigned to the incident and someone must fill on OT behind me back home. The incident isnt also charged my base pay. Im on my day off and now working im paid OT.

So its always an OT rate everday the rig is assigned. Seems like you took the base rate x 1.5 for OT and then added the base rate back into the total cost and then added the 10%. That is not how it is billed to the incident. Its the OT rate plus the admin fee.

And if im not mistaken all federal “fire” program equipment and crews did not charge their base 8 to the fire only their OT and hazard pay. Just people who arent normally in fire charge their base 8 to the incident.

Not sure how accurate that document is. Remember who wrote it…


Completely get what your saying. I just copied and pasted a quote/excerpt from that findings document. And your math checks out as well. I suppose that’s just an example of interpretation of cost of a resource or all incumbered while resource is on an incident.

Relative to CREWS, I can say that documents submitted in “fire packages” to Sacramento finance from Camps, DO include rates of backfill employees CDCR and CF. Safe to say it would be difficult to nail down costs or saving, as it is apples to oranges until the exact algorithm is agreed too.
Again @ajohansson I think your logic checks out…just depends on which rosè glasses we look through.


Regardless of what the cost is. Fires are put out with hand crews and air tankers!


Amen Brother! Don’t forget the big yellow McClouds too!


If you want to see a bunch of vacant job positions, start trying to hire firefighters to do the inmate crew labor. They will likely not apply. Anyone that has been on the fire line has seen that the inmate crews do the worst job out there with the exception of maybe some shot crews.


Dont forget the crew who’s punch in miles of hose


There are other states besides Ca. where they don’t have the CDCR and somehow they still fill crews. And full crews at that.

I don’t know what the total answer is either. But I do agree that with the stroke of a pen in this state inmate labor could be curtailed more than it is now. Or there could be a lot more of them. It is a very arbitrary source of people.


Also remember that we are paying to incarcerate these felons either way, when we get rid of the inmate firefighter program they dont just disappear. It also costs 3 times as much to house them at prisons over fire camps.