Mando Perez spent around six years fighting fire while incarcerated as a young man. Upon his release in 2010, he began the arduous transition into a position with a federal firefighting agency, and now works as a senior firefighter for the El Dorado Hotshots. In this episode, he shares his experiences of working on an inmate fire crew and details how he transitioned to a full-time fire career after his release. He also talks about why he continues to pursue fire as a career, what he loves about the job, and offers some suggestions for people who may be on a path similar to his.
Follow the link below to watch the Vice News short documentary on the El Dorado Hotshots (which I mentioned in this episode): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A6T9R-cjXc0&t=312s
To learn more about California Assembly Bill 2147—which allows formerly incarcerated firefighters to have their records expunged in order to gain employment more easily after their release—check out this piece in Politico from September: https://www.politico.com/states/california/story/2020/09/11/california-clears-way-for-inmate-firefighters-to-enter-profession-upon-release-9424131.
Finally, here are a few resources for anyone interested in getting a job as a wildland firefighter, regardless of their background:
The Wildland Fire Apprenticeship Program: https://www.nafri.gov/wfap/
The Rio Hondo Fire Academy (which Mando attended and mentions in this episode): https://www.riohondofire.com/wildland-fire-academy
The California Conservation Corps—this is a particularly good choice for college-aged people who have an interest in fire, trail work or other federal natural resource jobs: https://ccc.ca.gov/
Youth Conservation Corps—this program is for high schoolers who have an interest in natural resources work in general: https://www.fs.usda.gov/working-with-us/opportunities-for-young-people/youth-conservation-corps-opportunities