CUESTA CONSERVATION CAMP
Cuesta Conservation Camp is a 100-man
institution-based inmate fire-fighting camp located on property
leased from the California National Guard at Camp San Luis Obispo.
Cuesta Conservation Camp (CC 24) was formally activated on May 1,
1962 as CAL FIRE's 24th conservation camp.
Cuesta Camp is located approximately six miles west of San Luis
Obispo on State Highway 1.
Current staffing at Camp
consists of a Division Chief, twelve Fire Crew Captains, and a Heavy
Equipment Mechanic. When fully staffed, the number of fire
crew-eligible inmates assigned to Camp constitutes the five fire
crews at 17 fire fighters each. Each fire crew is trained and
supervised by an experienced and competent fire captain. Additional
inmates staff in-camp positions that include a mixture of reserve
fire fighters and non-fire fighter camp support personnel. These men
work in the camp shops and/or perform maintenance, and clerical
Additional staffing located at Camp includes an
office manager (Office Technician) and two Heavy Fire Equipment
Operators who staff a fire-fighting
bulldozer and transport unit as well as assist with vehicle
maintenance and repair.
Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
The conservation program is jointly administered
by CAL FIRE and CDCR. The inmates assigned to Cuesta Camp are
provided from the California Men’s Colony (CMC) located just west of
San Luis Obispo. Each work day, the inmates are picked up by
CAL FIRE personnel, taken to work projects or training assignments
and then returned at the end of the day. CDCR also provides
trained staff that accompanies the fire crews when they respond to
emergencies up and down the state. The CAL FIRE camp division
chief and the CDCR camp lieutenant work hand in hand to make the
The site is located
approximately six miles west of San Luis Obispo on State Highway 1
and some six miles due east of the ocean.
San Luis Obispo County is rural in nature. The
most important industries include agriculture, tourism, and
recreation. Major transportation arteries in or near Camp include
State Highways 1, 101, and the Union Pacific railway. Two seaports
are also nearby in at Morro Bay and San Luis Bay. The county’s
commercial airport is located at San Luis Obispo.
Fire crews assigned at
Cuesta Camp provide initial attack fire suppression and related
services to approximately 2.1 million of acres of state, federal, and
local responsibility area. The initial attack area includes the
northern portion of Los Padres National Forest, the north half of
Santa Barbara County, the western portion of Bureau of Land
Management’s Bakersfield District, as well as 175,000 acres of local
Special areas and target hazards located in
Cuesta's initial attack area include the California condor breeding
areas, several federal wilderness areas and special preserves, as
well as several states parks, including Hearst Castle and San Simeon
State Park. Cal Poly and Camp San Luis Obispo National Guard
facility both contain large holdings of State Responsibility Area.
Unique areas of interest within Cuesta initial attack area are the
Hearst-San Simeon State Historical Monument and Diablo Canyon
Nuclear Power Plant.
The nearest CAL FIRE conservation camps are
Ventura (Youth) Conservation Camp to the south in Ventura County and
Gabilan Conservation Camp to the north in Monterey County.
Cuesta Camp personnel
provide fire fighter protective clothing repair and sewing services
to the local CAL FIRE unit through the sewing shop. The Camp also
provides silkscreen services through the silkscreen shop. CAL FIRE
units and camps statewide as well as a variety of cooperating
agencies, such as Corrections, utilize these products and services.
Current Significant Projects
La Purisima Mission
State Park – The Mission recently acquired 2000 additional acres and
Cuesta crews are currently developing boundary fencing and hiking
Morro Bay State Park
– Pitch Canker has affected about 900 trees in the native Monterey
pine forest and adjoining golf course. Cuesta crews fell the trees
and burn or chip the slash. This project provides fuel reduction and
improves the health of the forest.
Hearst Castle State
Park – Fire Crews assist with reducing the wildland fuels in an
around this unique tourist attraction by removing excess flammable
vegetation and then chipping or burning the slash.
Fire Safe and
Management – Cuesta crews chip excess
vegetation in communities that no longer allow open dooryard
burning. Crews also construct fuel breaks and remove vegetation
around structures. Cuesta crews are heavily involved in vegetation
management projects in and around the community of Cambria. They are
creating a series of fuel breaks to protect the community from
Community Service Projects
In addition to emergency services, Cuesta Camp provides many
services to several state, local, quasi-governmental, and non-public
agencies and organizations. These services include fire defense
improvements such as brush clearing and vegetation management burns
Flood defense preparations include sand bagging, repairing levees, and
flood channel clearing.
Crews also provide fence repair, and hazard tree
removal from state parks. Although the work priority for fire crews
revolve around wildland fuel and hazard reduction, general cleanup
and labor services are provided to public agencies needing a larger
labor pool than they are able to produce internally. Trail
maintenance, clearing flood channels, providing fire wood to
campgrounds, and labor services to the California National Guard are
examples of these services. A recent project involved repairing and
re-roofing several buildings housing the State’s museum for the
original Civilian Conservation Corps. Of special note is a current
project involving the reconstruction of a mission-era Chumash Indian
village on the grounds of the La Purisima Mission State Park. This
project also included the reconstruction of the canal system that
served the original Mission. Cuesta crews recently installed a
handicap accessible boardwalk at the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular
Cuesta Camp trains its own
inmate crewmembers to become competent firefighters. The camp's
training captain gives the 67-hour firefighter course. The safe use
of mechanized power tools such as chain saws, weed whackers, and
chippers, is also provided to every inmate fire fighter. . The local
CAL FIRE Training Bureau often uses the Camp's classroom as an
additional training site.
Cuesta Camp's training captain also coordinates
the annual crew preparedness exercise for each fire crew at Cuesta
Camp. Camp personnel are fortunate to have a wide variety of areas
for hiking, cutting, and felling. Areas of thick coastal brush
provide excellent training for fireline construction and the
elimination of diseased pines on State Parks property provides
critical tree-falling practice.
What Sets Cuesta Camp Apart
At its opening in May of
1962, Cuesta Camp was unique in two ways. First, it was the first
institution-based camp in the CAL FIRE camp system
Second, the actual camp administrative site is
located almost three miles distant from CMC on the grounds of the
California National Guard’s (CNG) Camp San Luis Obispo military
reservation, (original home of the California National Guard).
Cuesta Camp is situated on the site of a closed World War II-era
motor pool. Several existing buildings and structures originally
constructed in the early 1940’s were remodeled and re-utilized for
The Unit’s South County
Mobile Equipment Repair Facility is also located at Cuesta Camp.
Due to its location, Cuesta Camp is routinely and regularly
used as a temporary staging area for other CAL FIRE fire crews
during move-up and cover assignments.
Cuesta Camp operates a CAL FIRE
Mobile Kitchen Units (MKU). This unit and its trailer provide
feeding to fire and support personnel assigned to emergency
incidents. The Cuesta MKU is substantially self-contained and can
feed up to 500 personnel within 5 hours of arrival at the incident.
It can feed up to 2,000 personnel after the first 24 hours
The following list
identifies all wheeled-apparatus assigned to Cuesta Camp:
Emergency Crew Transports (ECT) (166K PDF)
Mobile Kitchen Units (134K PDF)
1 MKU Support Trailer @ 42 feet
1 Stakeside, six-passenger
1 10-passenger van
1 Extended cab pickup
1 Camp division chief vehicle
1 Front-end loader
1 Dump truck (10-wheel)
Miscellaneous construction equipment (chipper, compressor
trailer, and concrete mixer)