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Expanding Career Pathways for Formerly Incarcerated Firefighters

PUBLISHED: Aug 22, 2023

For Ben Fowler, working as a firefighter feels like his life’s calling. “I’ve always loved being outside ever since I was a kid,” Ben reflected. “Both of my parents come from a background in public service, and they instilled that in me.”

But the path that led him there was not one he expected. A series of wrong decisions resulted in Ben’s incarceration.

“Being separated from my kids forced me to rethink the path I was going to travel in my life,” Ben reflected.

Motivated to create a better future for himself and his two children when he came home, Ben applied to be a part of Conservation (Fire) Camp—a program that trains and deploys incarcerated people to the frontlines of fires across California. Being selected gave Ben hope that he could translate the skills he would gain into a career when he came home. On the way, he found a renewed sense of pride and reconnected to his passion to work in service to others.

“Even while I was incarcerated, I was still able to contribute to society in a beneficial way,” Ben shared. “That’s when I knew I found my positive path.”

Upon his release, Ben struggled to find a job in the forestry and fire sector despite the growing shortage of firefighters.

“I knew I had the skills, and I knew there was a need,” said Ben. “But I just didn’t know how to navigate the process.”

When Ben got connected with the Forestry and Fire Recruitment Program, he began to see a way forward.

The Forestry and Fire Recruitment Program (FFRP) provides training, job coaching, and career pathways to formerly incarcerated people looking to join the wildland and fire sector. Originally based in Southern California, FFRP launched its first Bay Area cohort in 2021 with Tipping Point’s support.

Four weeks after graduating from FFRP, Ben started work as a forestry fire technician at the Mendocino National Forest.

“FFRP helped me take what I learned in fire camp and turn it into a career,” Ben shared. “At the end of the day, when I overhear my son telling his friends, ‘My dad is a firefighter,’ it makes the entire journey worth it.”

Ben is one of the over 200 individuals that FFRP has supported in pursuing a career in forestry and fire services, creating pathways to economic security and making a brighter and safer future possible for all of us.

Learn more from co-founders Royal Ramey and Brandon Smith about their journey establishing FFRP.

How Tipping Point expands career pathways for more people in the Bay Area.

Tipping Point builds community to advance the most promising poverty-fighting solutions so one day everyone has an opportunity to prosper in the Bay Area. Core to our strategy is to find, fund, and amplify organizations like The Forestry and Fire Recruitment Program (FFRP). Learn more about how Tipping Point partners with nonprofits to help them unlock their full potential so more individuals can move from poverty to prosperity.

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