By Douglas W. Motley
Pilot Rock Conservation Camp, which is located south of Crestline on the eastern flank of Silverwood Lake, was closed last October but will be reopening on May 3 as a home base for the state agency’s division headquarters, which includes San Bernardino, Inyo and Mono counties.
The former prison inmate facility, one of 35 such amenities throughout the state operated jointly by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and Cal Fire, will now be staffed by over 100 Cal Fire senior officers and firefighters whose primary mission will be to support federal, state and local government agencies as they respond to emergencies such as fires, floods and other natural and manmade disasters.
Inmate crews are no longer housed and trained at Pilot Rock. However, according to Pilot Rock Division Chief Tony Jones, they may be called in and used if a major incident should flare up.
Among the personnel at Pilot Rock will be one division chief, one battalion chief, six captains, six equipment engineers and some 80 firefighters, along with one heavy engine mechanic, four cooks and water and sewer plant operators, as well as other office staff. According to Chief Jones, not all 100-plus personnel will be stationed at the site at the same time.
“The daily staffing will include one captain, one engineer and 13 firefighters who will be rotated on a daily basis,” Jones told The Alpine Mountaineer.
Jones added that Pilot Rock crews would be responding to areas within San Bernardino County east of Interstate 15, west of Twentynine Palms, south of Apple Valley and north of Interstate 10. He said they would also be responding to incidents in Inyo and Mono counties as well.
Asked whose idea the repurposing of the forestry camps was, Jones said it was ordered by California Governor Gavin Newsom “The governor also ordered the hiring of 1,399 new firefighters, statewide, all of whom are state-paid personnel.”
When asked what Pilot Rock’s primary mission will be, Jones said, “In addition to fighting fires, they will be abating fire hazards in the communities by reducing fuels, such as weeds and chaparral and removing bark beetle-infested trees, as well as insect control.”