On November 8, 2019, the Woolsey fire literally burst into flames, burning thousands of acres of land, destroying more than 1643 structures, killing three people and causing the evacuation of thousands. By the following day, the fire was burning out of control as it headed for Campus Kilpatrick. However due to the heroic efforts of the probation officers on duty, who remained at their post protecting the youth in their charge, and the firefighters that arrived and assisted in the evacuation of the campus, tragedy was averted.
This fire would have a huge impact on the Local 685 Awards and Scholarship Banquet, scheduled to take place July 26, 2019. Loads of praise and thanks were heaped upon probation officers stationed at a probation camp in the hills of Malibu, who managed to assist their charges and other staff members at Campus Kilpatrick in the evacuation from the fire. The Woolsey Fire indeed presented a haunting source of danger for the Los Angeles County Probation Department’s newly built Campus Kilpatrick. As the fire came closer to the probation Campus, there was a decision made to evacuate to Challenger Youth Center in Lancaster, which is the only probation camp not in a fire area.
One cottage at Campus Kilpatrick burned however, nearby Camp Miller was a total “loss.” Nearby Camp Gonzales provided sleeping quarters for the probation officers supervising youngsters at the camp. There was no officer at the recently reconstructed Campus Kilpatrick, because there were no sleeping quarters designed for the building. There was no management present to provide any meaningful leadership during the evacuation, which made this event even more chaotic. There was no response from Downey probation headquarters, even though there had been ample time initially for them to respond.
“Los Angeles County Fire Captain Mullen was present to help guide our dedicated probation officers out of this deadly and rapidly burning fire. We are indeed proud of our probation officers at Campus Kilpatrick, given the challenges they faced during the tragic effects of the Woolsey Fire. Their resourcefulness and collaborative approach with the help of Fire Captain Mullen and the fire fighters working with him resulted in the safe evacuation of the juveniles in their care and staff working at the facility,” stated Hans Liang, president of Local 685 and Mayor of Monterey Park.
Many times, when circumstances are at their worst, probation officers can be at their best.