Felon firefighter forces dwindling

August 1, 2012

Even as California’s fire season reaches its peak, state officials are learning that a new prison policy will drastically affect the numbers of firefighters available in emergencies. (SF Chronicle)

State prison trustees who have been trained to provide critical, physical services during wildfires are being transferred to local control as a result of the state Department of Corrections’ newly-initiated policy. That calls for lower-risk prisoners to be moved into county jails or placed under supervision of local probation officials.

According to state sources, more than 4,000 such prisoners have been trained to assist during emergency situations. Now, however, at least 1,500 of these people now will be incarcerated locally and will not be available to help with what may be a huge fire season.

Inmates are characterized by the orange protective clothing they wear alongside Cal Fire workers, who wear yellow.

“They’re able to provide a large workforce,” said Daniel Berlant, spokesman for the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “Oftentimes we have just as many, if not more, inmate firefighters on the fire line than regular fire crews.”

State prisoners are nonviolent offenders who volunteer their services. They are paid $1 a day, or $1 an hour if fighting fires, said officials.


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8 Comments

  1. Just because says:

    Wow the comments so far are terrible. You all are focusing on the issue of non having people work for $1 as fire fighters. What about the fact that (at least for those on this story) we will have people trained and able to assist in fire fighting efforts on the outside.

    These people were non-violent offenders who are already making a contribution to society. I personally wish them well and hope they can continue to be positive aspects in society when they get. Wether or not it had effected the fire crews it would still remain to be seen how many revert to crime. Seems like these guys & gals might have the best chances (not trying to predict the future).

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    • Just because says:

      And I was talking about those inmates the State is talking about releasing, not being sent to county jails obviously.

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  2. mkaney says:

    Whenever the public questions why certain activities cost the government so much (e.g. transferring responsibility for certain prisoners, designating parking spots for the homeless) we are told that it is because of all the complex planning, logistics, regulations, and professionals involved. But ultimately, as we see in this case, these supposed professionals don’t actually think things through and proactively mitigate any of the negative effects resulting from their actions. To me, that’s misrepresentation and fraud. This junk is getting older faster than I am.

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  3. Jack L says:

    And soon the first State Responsibility Area (SRA) Fire Prevention bills will be sent out to people living in the SRA. The bills will be sent out to counties in alphabetical order. San Luis Obispo County will not have bills sent out until around October. In San Luis Obispo County the bills being sent will be $115.00 per habitable structure. The Board of Equalization is the billing agency. The State Legislature passed the legislation requiring this Fire Prevention Fee. Any questions can be answered by checking the website at

    http://www.firepreventionfee.org/

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  4. easymoney says:

    Terrible news…
    These hand crews are a very important component of fighting wildland fires and sometimes the crew numbers exceed those of CALFIRE crews.
    Even the little Avila fire was fought with the help of these crews…

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    • Just because says:

      The hand crews are important maybe more people should volunteer their services if CalFire isn’t hiring. Even with the prison crews I’m sure they can still use the help…

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  5. BeenThereDoneThat says:

    That is to sad to hear. Hadn’t thought about the fact of the reorgansation of the prisons could affect this. Here in SLO county we also got hit when they closed the boys school in Paso. The boys school had a nice training facility that provided extra help.

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    • SLORider says:

      Stupid Legislature and Brown rarely thinks things through. Their wake is larger than the ship they are trying to sail through.

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