SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KRON) — Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC) announced it has been awarded $6 million in funds from the Sonoma County District Attorney’s settlement with PG&E related to the 2019 Kincade Fire.

SRJC said it will be investing the funds towards the school’s Fire Technologies and Wildfire Resilience programs to train a workforce dedicated to keeping Sonoma County safe from future catastrophic wildfires.

“SRJC is honored and grateful for the investment that the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office secured for our Fire Technologies Program and our Wildfire Resilience Program,” said Dr. Frank Chong, SRJC president. “This investment will enable SRJC to grow and expand these programs that train the next generation of firefighters and wildfire resilience professionals in Sonoma County. We are ready to step up for our community.”

The Fire Technology Program of the Santa Rosa Junior College Public Safety Training Center is recognized by California State Fire Training under the State Fire Marshal’s Office and the State Board of Fire Services as an Accredited Regional Training Program, offering several paths for those who have an interest in the fire service.

The program offers a certificate in Fire Technology, an Associate’s Degree in Fire Technology, the Firefighter I & II Academy, and “In-service” courses. The SRJC Firefighter Academy was recently awarded the State Fire Training Ronny J. Coleman California Accredited Academy of Excellence award as the “best Academy in the State”.

Courtesy: Santa Rosa Junior College.

“There is a severe shortage of qualified firefighter candidates to fill current openings in Sonoma County and statewide,” said Fire Technology Program Director Ken Sebastiani. “These new resources from the PG&E settlement will allow us to increase our capacity and grow our program now and for years into the future.”

SRJC said it will also look to launch or expand two additional programs. The first is a contract education program focused on training a workforce to conduct utility power line inspections and perform utility line clearance arboriculture. Program graduates will go to work directly with PG&E or their utility line clearance contractors. 

Additionally, the school will expand its bilingual, fire resilient landscaper training for the predominantly Latino landscaper workforce in Sonoma County. The program will work with nonprofits and county partners that include landscapers in forthcoming incentive programs for property owners to perform vegetation management, structure hardening, and fire resilient landscaping around their properties.