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Camp for young women interested in firefighting takes place this week in San Luis Obispo

Posted at 6:40 PM, Jun 29, 2023

This is the second year in a row that CAL FIRE has sponsored an all-girls firefighting camp in San Luis Obispo called Camp Cinder.

This year, 32 girls between the ages of 16 and 18 years old are taking part.

“I have a family that’s from CAL FIRE and they’re all men, so being the first girl in the family to explore CAL FIRE's options with all these other women — it’s cool to see that,” said Presley Alexanain, Camp Cinder participant.

Camp Cinder is a five-day firefighter training camp that allows young women the opportunity to get hands-on training and a look at a job they may have never thought possible.

“I came here thinking I was going to be a teacher,” Alexanain said.

Most of the training has been at the South County Drill Grounds but on Thursday, they spent the day at Avila Beach.

“CAL FIRE is an all-risk department so we can be at the beach doing search and rescue, we can be at a high-rise, we can be on a structure fire, or we can be at a big wildland fire,” said Savannah Birchfield, Camp Cinder San Luis Obispo Public Information Officer.

Some of the training includes ropes and knots, water rescues, helicopter operations, and more.

This year, Amp Surf donated wetsuits for the campers.

“Serving first responders is one of our primary goals so to be out here today is just a joy,” said Judy Sage, Amp Surf coordinator.

Madeline Nees is a Camp Cinder participant from Santa Barbara. She says she has wanted to be a firefighter since she was a little girl.

“I feel like I work harder because I have something to prove almost, but I know that I don’t have anything to prove because I am strong," Nees said.

“We’re giving these girls a hands-on opportunity to learn from women in the fire service, not just CAL FIRE but local agencies too,” Birchfield said.

CAL FIRE Captain Eva Grady serves as the incident commander for Camp Cinder. She says she was the only female when she entered the fire service and wishes there was a camp like this when she started.

“There’s a sisterhood that’s formed in the fire service. This camp is a great way to build those connections," Birchfield added.

“My favorite part is meeting all the strong women in the fire industry,” Nees said.

If you are interested in the camp, applications are accepted starting in November.

Click here for more information.