BRANDON N. SMITH is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Forestry and Fire Recruitment Program (FFRP). Brandon helped found FFRP to help individuals who are formerly incarcerated and worked in fire camps overcome the barriers that prevent them from entering the professional field of fire fighting.
Brandon, a husband and a father, grew up in Altadena, California and has a Bachelor of Arts in African American and Liberal Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. In 2008, Brandon was incarcerated at Wasco State Prison. During his incarceration, Brandon was approached to join a Conservation Camp (“Fire Camp”). While initially reluctant to join, Brandon was ultimately convinced by the prospect of living and working closer to family and loved ones. Ultimately, Brandon was drawn to professional fire fighting after serving in a fire camp and feeling a sense of purpose and recognizing the opportunity to give back to the community. Brandon met his co-founder, Royal Ramey, at the Bautista Adult Conservation Fire Camp in Hemet in Riverside County.
Brandon was released in March 2014 after his sentence was reduced because of his work on a fire crew. After release, Brandon spent 18 months applying to fire stations before enrolling in a fire academy in Victorville and later graduated at the top of his class. In the summer of 2015, Smith got first professional assignment to fight Lake Fire. Shortly after, Brandon was hired by the US Forest Service in Sonora. Brandon comes to this work with 6+ seasons of extensive experience as an industry professional as a firefighter 1 and intermediate faller, having heavily utilized wildfire suppression, prevention, and fuels reduction skills.
During this period of his life as a professional wildland firefighter, Brandon consistently volunteered to visit Fire Camps to speak to incarcerated firefighters about how to find jobs in the Forest Service. Later in 2015, Brandon and Royal founded FFRP to help the thousands of others currently and formerly incarcerated in Fire Camps obtain gainful employment within this sector once they come home. Brandon is a firm believer that those trained and utilized by the State of California should be able to professionally utilize those same skills they have been trained in on reentry. He believes that this model is applicable to all trades taught and utilized by people while in prison nationwide, and that there should be both space and opportunity for them once they come home. Through FFRP’s work led by Brandon, the organization has helped more than 140 people attain gainful, family-winning employment.
For Brandon, FFRP represents a model for states to follow to provide structural support and gainful employment opportunities and prevent recidivism while filling a much needed field.
Sneak Preview of Episode 2 with Brandon Smith
Listen to the complete episode on Spotify