College fire cadets called to battle Calif. fires

A helicopter drops water while trying to keep a wildfire from jumping Santa Ana Road near Ventura, California. (Photo: AP/Noah Berger)

Rio Hondo College Fire Crew 77 has rotated into action to assist U.S. Forest Service firefighters in battling a series of California wildfires that sprang up last week.

The crew, known as the Roadrunners, started working on the Creek Fire near Sylmar on December 5 and is expected to be in service for at least a week.

The crew includes 16 members, among them 13 cadets and part-time instructors from the Rio Hondo College Wildland Fire Academy, and three members from another crew.

“All of us at Rio Hondo College are proud of the significant contributions of our Wildland Fire Academy crew. They exemplify our mission to serve the community,” Superintendent/President Teresa Dreyfuss said in a statement. “It’s truly tremendous how they put themselves out there on our behalf.”

The crew assists with all aspects of fire monitoring, suppression and control. In summer, the crew was activated to support U.S. Forest Service crews. In 2016, the crew was called up three times to aid the Forest Service.

Some crew members left other jobs to join the effort.

Rio Hondo College’s Wildland Fire Academy is highly regarded within the industry, with 100 percent of graduates finding positions with wildland fire agencies. The program is overseen by Rio Hondo College EMT, Wildland, Fire and Homeland Security Coordinator Tracy E. Rickman, who also serves as chief of Crew 77.

As of the CCDaily press time, local community colleges such as Moorpark College, Oxnard College, Ventura College and the Santa Paula Center were open, though some events — such as the Ventura College Nurse Pinning have been postponed. Santa Barbara Community College remains closed until at least Monday.

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