Altadena: Formerly incarcerated firefighters among a group of new SoCal graduates from the forestry and fire recruitment program

ALTADENA, Calif. (KABC) — More than two dozen new Southland Forest firefighters graduated from a special program Saturday that helps make a difference in more ways than one.

Among the graduates were formerly incarcerated firefighters. Twenty-seven men and women graduated from the Forestry and Fire Recruitment Program in Altadena.

The non-profit organization helps incarcerated former crew members find employment upon release.

Some started their training while still in prison, but are ready for a second chance with a career in the fire service.

“It’s an incredible adventure. Coming home with nothing to look forward to, and you don’t know what’s going to happen in your life, you don’t know if you’re going to end up going back,” said Superintendent Daton Harris. the Forestry and Firefighting Recruitment Program. “For them to have this platform, and for them to be able to really extend their careers, and to be really able to be an asset to the public and their community, that’s huge.”

Daniel Tate is one of the recent graduates. He says he didn’t have much going for him before this program. He says the program has helped him become a better man.

“A lot of these people, we all come from the same background, so to even see ourselves being able to have another chance and be reintegrated into the community again is a great feeling,” Tate said. “Now I can walk around with a puffed out chest and know I have a purpose.”

Tate and his colleagues learned skills in fighting wildfires, including fire prevention strategies. This experience will help these graduates provide additional support during wildfires.

“What they develop is respect, honor, duty, integrity, everything that fire departments and first responders have, they get it and yes they can be public servants,” said Matthew Hudson, of the Forestry and Fire Recruitment Program. “They’re going to save communities, protect wildlife and people too.”

“We’re trying to change the world,” Harris said. “Give everyone the opportunity to be great.”

For Tate, the program provided that, setting him on a new path and a chance to give back to his community with his newfound skills.

“Everything has changed since I joined this program,” Tate said. “I have become a better man.”

Saturday graduates are part of the program’s third cohort.

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