Nearly half the people fighting wildfires wreaking havoc across California are prison inmates

RTR4IES1USA-FIREFIGHTERS/CALIFORNIA REUTERS/Lucy NicholsonPrison inmates Gilbert Serrato, 33, (L) and Joshua Mojarro, 28, wait to be assigned to work projects at Oak Glen Conservation Fire Camp #35 in Yucaipa, California November 6, 2014.

Of the 10,000 men and woman fighting the California wildfires right now, roughly 40% of them are convicted criminals, Capital Public Radio reports..

They are part of the California Department of Correction’s Conservation Camp, a program run in conjunction with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) that rehabilitates inmates by training them to fight wildfires.

California has relied on inmates to help fight wildfires since the 80s, and now, nearly every one of the Conservation Camp inmates has been dispatched to central and northeast California, according to Capital Public Radio. There, wildfires have charred over 250 square miles of land across 15 counties in the past seven weeks.

Conservation Camp pays inmates $US1 an hour for their help in emergency situations. They are also used in other emergencies like floods and earthquakes. There are 39 Conservation Camps across the state training some 4,000 inmates. Their work saves taxpayers about $US80 million every year, according to the state.

The inmates receive 64 hours of training before being dispatched. They work five days a week but remain on-call 24/7.

Take a look at the photos below, from the last several years.


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


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