Prisoners Are Fighting Wildfires For $US1 An Hour

Inmate firefighters Yosemite National Park California wildfire Jae C. HongInmates firefighters clear brush and set sprinklers to protest two groves of giant sequoias along the northwest edge of Yosemite National Park.

Prison inmates, who double as firefighters, fought a huge wildfire near California’s Yosemite National Park on Sunday, the
Associated Pressreported.

In conjunction with California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), the California Department of Corrections runs a rehabilitation program for inmates by training them to fight wildfires.

The program, called Conservation Camp, gives county agencies an able-bodied and trained workforce to fight fires and help with other emergencies such as floods and earthquakes. They make $US1 an hour for emergency assignments. Their work saves taxpayers about $US80 million every year, according to the state.

California has used inmate crews for firefighting since the early 80s, according to Fire Department Network News. Currently, CAL FIRE operates 39 Conservation Camps statewide with nearly 4,300 inmates and wards.

The inmates get 64 hours of basic training as a wildland firefighter, according to FDNN. They work five days a week but remain on-call 24/7, Lt. Donald Bruens, camp commander, told the TV show LA Now.

On Sunday, inmate firefighters fought the “Rim Fire,” which has so far consumed nearly 225 square miles of forests, according to the AP.

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