June 2, 2023

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Marin FIRE Foundry just got a big boost from the state.
Given California’s need for firefighters, its $2.7 million investment makes sense.
The funding is going to help grow Marin’s Fire Innovation, Recruitment and Education Foundry, a training program aimed at opening the door to firefighting careers to women and people of color.
Historically, the service has been comprised of mostly White men, often following a generations-long path.
Reaching out to under-represented sectors – by opening opportunities for training and getting jobs – is a strategy that’s crucial to meet the state’s need for firefighters.
Long and intense fire seasons have taken a toll and fueled retirements.
Many have been caused by the long hours and time away from home, worsened by having to back up force shortages. The departures are reducing the state’s firefighting ranks at a time when destructive wildland fires are increasing and the need for firefighters has never been greater.
In Marin, the state grant will help in the program’s work with local fire departments, the College of Marin, the University of California at Berkeley, Stanford University and the county Office of Equity.
Building recruitment and training to help reduce the risk of wildfires is one of the program’s pillars. Another is building a firefighting force that better reflects the communities it protects.
For Marin and the state, ranks of local firefighters are frequently dispatched to the frontlines of fires in other counties. By filling Marin’s ranks, the state is rebuilding its force of firefighters.
The one-year program has already attracted 19 recruits and it hopes that its next class will grow to 30.
The paid recruits get training – both physical and professional – and are connected with resources for housing and meals, as well as to continuing education that provides them access to technology advancements or other knowledge and skills that could help in building their careers.
Some of those careers may not involve putting out fires, but could lead to work, for example, in civil and community services, environmental sciences, medicine and education.
Learning to work together is also emphasized.
It’s hard work, but it’s work that opens doors.
As Marin County Fire Chief Jason Weber frames it, the foundry seeks to meet recruits’ needs as well as the need for current and future firefighters, not only in Marin, but across the state.
What’s important is the foundry program provides a strong start for men and women who might otherwise thought they might not be welcomed into careers as firefighters.
“Our goal is to take individuals who may not have been on a pathway to a sustainable wage career, and then create that path,” Weber said.
Building back the state’s firefighting force – which has never been pressed into duty more than the past couple of years – is a critical priority. Widening the recruitment outreach and providing programs that provide a gateway is a smart priority toward meeting that priority.
The state’s support should help build the impressive momentum toward that goal already being seen in Marin’s program.
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