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The Mt. Bullion Fire Crew at the Oakhurst Community Center (Photos courtesy Cheryln Thomas)

Mt. Bullion Crew Clears ‘Fire Fuel’ Around Oakhurst Community Center

OAKHURST — The Mt. Bullion Fire Crew is conducting a weed abatement and fire-safety operation this week around the Oakhurst Community Center and Oakhurst Little League fields.

The two-day (June 25-26) operation is being supervised by Captain Gordon Dulcich.

During Tuesday’s cleanup at the OCC, the fire crew was called away twice.

“They had to drop all of their weed eaters and race out of here for fire calls,” says Cheryln Thomas, OCC facility manager. “They came back 15 or 20 minutes later and picked right back up at it. They were a hard-working crew.”

This is not the first time the Mt. Bullion inmate fire crews have performed weed abatement and fire fuel reduction work at the center, according to Thomas.

“Over the years, they’ve come over from Mariposa and done this for us a number of times,” she says. “We trade favors. Sometimes, they have events here and we don’t charge them. As a nonprofit, that’s just how we have to do things.”

On Tuesday, 13 inmate firefighters scoured the OCC grounds from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., supervised by Capt. Dulcich.

“It was really dusty and hot out there,” Thomas points out. “The guys cleared out everything but my burn pile, removed all the brush and stacked up branches.”

“They did quite a bit of work in the time they were here,” Thomas adds. “All of them were really nice gentlemen. ”

Mt. Bullion’s fire protection responsibilities fall within the Cal Fire MMU Ranger District, which includes Mariposa, Merced and Madera Counties. Mt. Bullion is the only inmate camp in the MMU.

Mt. Bullion was converted in October 2004 from a youth detention facility to an “adult conservation camp” for low-risk inmates.

The camp’s formal name is Mount Bullion Conservation Camp #39.

Located near Mariposa, the camp can accommodate up to 110 and is currently housing 76 inmates. The facility has been utilized as a staging area during recent major wildfires and can meet the needs of up to eighteen hand crew strike teams.

Cal Fire’s “69-Hour” fire fighting training program for new seasonal firefighters also is conducted at Mt. Bullion.

Cal Fire and the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) officials meet weekly at the facility for discussions on safety and other issues concerning the smooth operation of the camp.

CDCR in tandem with Cal Fire operate some three dozen inmate-staffed Conservation Camps up and down the state. Inmates who have earned enough points within the CDCR system are eligible to be placed in one of the camps.

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