LaMalfa urges Newsom to avoid closing Modoc Fire Camp

Congressman Doug LaMalfa issued the following statement after sending a letter to California Governor Gavin Newsom, asking him to reconsider closing the Devil’s Garden Conservation Camp. Earlier this month, Newsom announced that his administration would be closing eight fire camps, including Devil’s Garden, due to budget constraints.

“The last thing California needs is fewer firefighting resources, especially in the rural parts of the state,” LaMalfa said. “Devil’s Garden Conservation Camp is the only fire camp within two hours of Modoc County, an area that has been prone to lightning ignitions. Closing it down would mean fire crews will not be able to reach parts of Modoc County in the critical early hours of a wildfire. Governor Newsom must find a solution to keep Devil’s Garden open. After a year like this one, maintaining what fire camps we do have should be a no brainer.”

Here’s the text of LaMalfa’s letter:

I am writing you in regards to your administration’s recent decision to close the Devil’s Garden Conservation Camp outside Alturas, in Modoc County, California. Along with seven other locations, this camp has been marked for closure as a direct result of the California State Budget for 2020-21. Given the steep challenges that we have faced from wildfires over the past several years, it is inappropriate to cut the budgets of institutions that protect our communities. The decision to close Devil’s Garden Conservation Camp is ill-conceived given the lack of other fire camps nearby that may be able to pick up the weight.

All of California understands the difficult fiscal climate that government agencies are operating in this year. However, losing Devil’s Garden will require Modoc County to rely on Antelope Conservation Camp in Susanville — which is likely more than a two-hour drive during an active wildfire season. If the limited connections to Susanville are closed, then Sugar Pine Conservation Camp must be relied upon, despite the drive approaching three hours in an active wildfire season. As you are hopefully aware, tens of thousands of acres have burned in Modoc County in recent years, and much of the area remains prone to lightning ignitions.

I am aware that your budget requires the eight identified fire camps to be closed by the end of December this year. Before that time arrives, I am asking that you reconsider the approach being taken by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and maintain a presence at Devil’s Garden. More importantly, if you are unable to identify another solution to this issue, you must fully explain the decision, including the specific cost savings and any contributing factors.

I look forward to continuing to engage with you on Devil’s Garden, forest management and wildfire recovery.