At San Diego Gas & Electric, our employees feel a strong sense of purpose beyond delivering clean, safe and reliable energy services to our 3.7 million customers. As part of our commitment to the communities we serve, we support a variety of initiatives through shareholder contributions, employee giving programs, and volunteerism. Our philanthropic strategic priorities include: climate action, emergency preparedness and safety, economic prosperity, and K-16 STEM. Many of our initiatives focus on advancing racial and gender equity in alignment with our company value to “champion people.” We understand that in order for our region to thrive and become more sustainable, it is important for all of us to do our part to ensure no one is left behind.

Uplifting the Next Generation of Firefighters with Southwestern College’s Basic Fire Academy
The Southwestern College (SWC) Fire Science program is building the next generation of firefighters through its Basic Fire Academy in San Diego’s South County. As the fire service industry commits to increasing racial and gender diversity throughout its ranks, SWC is focused on improving the number of people of color and women who enter its student body to properly reflect the rich diversity of the communities they will serve. The Fire Academy is a fully state-accredited fire training school that provides the necessary education and hands-on experience required for the State Fire Fighter 1 certification. Many graduates have successfully received job offers from the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department (SDFD), CAL FIRE and the Chula Vista Fire Department (CVFD).

San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) and SWC have partnered up to encourage a wider variety of community members to become professional firefighters by removing financial barriers that may be holding them back from pursuing higher education. SDG&E’s Emergency Preparedness and Safety grant initiative prioritizes the safety of San Diego by investing in partnerships that properly equip first responders in the face of increasing climate and wildfire threats. Through this initiative, SDG&E has supported students like Lino Pacheco. Lino is a Chula Vista native who graduated from the Fire Academy in May 2022 and is now fulfilling his dream of being a firefighter at the SDFD. Attending the academy was one of Lino’s greatest experiences and he recognizes the immense relief it was to have a scholarship that supported him through his training. “Without it, I know myself and some of the other recruits would have faced financial hardships,” said Pacheco.

Diverse representation in leadership roles can provide individuals with a sense of belonging as they embark on their own careers. Lorraine Hutchison, director of the SWC Fire Science program, continues to be an example of the power of representation. Until her retirement in 2015, Lorraine proudly served as the first African American woman promoted to engineer, captain, battalion chief, and deputy chief at the SDFD. Now her work at SWC continues to be centered around recruiting and training underrepresented individuals to further enrich the fire service industry. “By purposefully broadening the diversity of our firefighting student body, we pave the way for hiring agencies to access a wider spectrum of skills and perspectives in their personnel,” said Hutchinson.

Throughout Lorraine’s past and current roles, she continues to amplify the important role and responsibility firefighters hold. “Fire service individuals are indispensable pillars of community resilience and safety, embodying the ethos of service and sacrifice that defines the firefighting profession,” said Hutchinson. “Beyond their response to emergencies, fire service individuals also contribute to community outreach and education efforts, promoting fire prevention, safety awareness and preparedness among residents.”
When entering the firefighting service, individuals commit their lives to protecting others which is why access to comprehensive training opportunities and advanced equipment is vital to ensure they feel confident in their abilities. A firefighter embodies the courage, dedication and selflessness needed to risk their lives daily for the sake of public safety. Through their partnership with SDG&E, SWC is paving the way for the next generation of firefighters.
Learn more about the Fire Academy at:

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Esteban Villanueva