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 services.
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
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 program work.
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.
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 responsibility area
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 Vegetation
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
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
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)