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My Experience at the Sacramento FCTC Career Fair

Surprisingly, I had little to no knowledge of fire prior to working with the FIRE Foundry. Sure I knew what wildfires were, the devastation of the 2017 California wildfires, and how they spread, but there was so much I didn’t know. How did they start? Why weren’t people prepared in 2017? Why are they so hard to prevent and suppress? And what is the safety procedure for when a wildfire happens? At the time I thought I was clueless compared to everyone else, but as I would learn the average person doesn’t know the answer to these questions either. And as I began to find answers to these questions, I would get introduced to the world of fire and the importance of the FIRE Foundry.

The FIRE Foundry is an organization that seeks to engage underrepresented or underserved communities with sustainable careers and pathways through fire services or fire adjacent careers. It is a year-long program that offers multiple benefits such as training opportunities, classes through College of Marin, a mentorship program, free housing, and employment opportunities on the fuels crew with Conservation Corps North Bay. It takes two cohorts of around 30 recruits a year, with people coming from various backgrounds and demographics. The purpose of the FIRE Foundry is to address the inequality and n

on-accessibility of the fire sector, as it has historically been (and currently is) overwhelmingly white and male. Diversifying the fire industry has many advantages, such as reflecting the community it serves, cultural competence, recruitment retention, and equal opportunity for those who want to be involved. The FIRE Foundry really is a unique and special organization, and provides numerous opportunities and support services to allow anyone to succeed. I myself have had the privilege of meeting and interacting with the FIRE Foundry recruits, and I can confidently say that they are a hardworking, service driven, passionate group of individuals.

As a GrizzlyCorps fellow with the FIRE Foundry, one of my roles is being an outreach and education coordinator. Because of this, I have had the opportunity to attend multiple career fairs and represent the FIRE Foundry to the public. I have attended three so far, one in Marin City, another in Sacramento, and one at College of Marin. All of these career fairs were open to the public, and it was eye opening to interact with the community and engage with those interested in fire services. I was surprised to see the diversity of people who came up to our booth, and it felt fulfilling to introduce so many people to such an amazing program. However, the career fair in Sacramento at the Firefighter Candidate Testing Center (FCTC) was very special for me, as it was advertised for those already interested in fire services.

Picture of the career fair and all the vendors and departments that attended. (Credit: Sacramento Fire Department Facebook)

While the career fairs in Marin featured jobs and careers in various sectors, the FCTC Sacramento career fair only featured fire departments across California and various fire related programs. Because the FIRE Foundry is part of Marin County Fire Department (MCFD), I was there with other MCFD staff promoting seasonal and full time positions with the department. When we arrived, we immediately noticed the vast amount of fire departments there, ranging from Oakland all the way to San Diego. There were also fire engines there, along with activities like a mock CPAT test, and a department even brought a dog that was trained for fire service. The venue was filled with firefighters, but what was even more intimidating was the line of over 300 people waiting to get in.

Line of attendees outside the FCTC career fair. (Credit: Sacramento Fire Department Facebook)

I was feeling nervous! How could I get anyone’s attention with all the fire departments here? What if I don’t know how to answer people’s questions? What if I mess up and say the wrong thing to someone?

However, all those anxious feelings went away as soon as people came up to our table. While many attendees were already somewhat established in their fire career, there was still a good portion of people who were just beginning their journey. This was where I could promote the FIRE Foundry and really let the organization shine. The expressions people had when I told them that the FIRE Foundry would pay for classes and their EMT certificates was something that I will never forget. It was amazing seeing the diversity of people who I interacted with, and how they were looking to start or switch careers into fire. Many people I talked to mentioned struggles paying for school, affording housing, and staying employed while doing classes or getting trained. The fact that the FIRE Foundry accounts for all of these issues is incredible, and talking to the community and the barriers that people face when getting into fire services truly shows the value of this organization. Though the career fair was only three hours, I had the privilege of interacting with so many different people, and I really enjoyed spending time with the MCFD staff and getting to know their stories as well.

Picture of the Marin County Fire Department booth. Featuring me and MCFD staff and seasonals.

Another important aspect of fire services that was highlighted at this career fair was community. One value that MCFD and all the different departments there shared was an emphasis on community and togetherness. When you join a fire department it is not just a job, you are joining a family bonded by the commitment to serve, respect, and protect the people around you. When I talked to people who came up to my booth, I always made sure to mention the community aspect, and that you join this program with a cohort, a mentor, and the support of any staff involved. As a postgraduate, I realize it’s easy to feel isolated and lonely in the working world. You go from being surrounded with friends, people your own age, and those in your same stage of life, to an unpredictable environment that can include anyone or anything. The FIRE Foundry seeks to recreate that feeling, and makes sure that the cohort is united and supports each other through the intense pathway of becoming a firefighter. And this is what I think makes the FIRE Foundry so unique, as this program not only seeks to break down the walls that prevent many people from careers in fire, but also provides a community experience that supports, motivates, and includes people into the field of fire.

I have truly enjoyed my experience so far in the FIRE Foundry. The people I’ve met, the supervisors I’ve worked with, and the community I get to engage with has been such a fulfilling experience that I haven’t witnessed in any other job I’ve had. I am so excited for what’s to come ahead, and I can’t wait to contribute and have new experiences through my journey with the FIRE Foundry!

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