California Conservation Corps Members Back Home after Helping in Puerto Rico

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SACRAMENTO -- It has been a long and difficult month, but members of California's Conservation Corps are back home in Sacramento after helping out in Puerto Rico.

They came down the escalator at Sacramento International Airport in formation and still in uniform to hugs they've been without, only able to text sporadically with family while they were in San Juan.

Hurricane Maria is regarded as the worst natural disaster to hit Puerto Rico. It stomped onto the island as a Category 4 storm, killing more than 60 people, unplugging the country and causing an intense humanitarian crisis.

The corps, which works to improve the state's natural resources, also responds to natural disasters when needed.

For 19-year-old Anthony Bortolazzo, repairing homes and hauling away debris was tough, but not tougher than dealing with attitudes on the island when folks thought they were with FEMA.

"The reaction we got from people was mixed," Bortolazzo said. "We had to separate ourselves from being part of FEMA because they have a bad vibe over there right now because of the late response."

"I think it's amazing. I'm really super proud of him and I think it's an amazing experience that not a lot of young people get to have. And I'm really proud that he wanted to do it, he volunteers to do these things," said Bortolazzo's mother, Dawne. "He volunteered and wanted to go into the corps, so giving back to the community is really important. I'm glad he grew up wanting to do that."

With their work in Puerto Rico behind them, the members of the conservation corps will now be working to remove the fuels that could cause forest fires in the Lake Tahoe Basin.