SEVERE WX : Freeze Watch View Alerts
STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Inmates who battle wildfires in California to get better chance at post-prison firefighter jobs

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation Friday that allows...

Posted: Sep 12, 2020 3:05 AM

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation Friday that allows inmate firefighters who are on the front lines to become professional firefighters after they are released from prison.

The law gives former inmates the chance to have their records expunged and have their parole waived because of their time as firefighters.

"Inmates who have stood on the frontlines, battling historic fires should not be denied the right to later become a professional firefighter," Newsom tweeted. According to CNN affiliate KABC, Newsom said the law will give thousands of inmate firefighters opportunity and hope. He called them "heroic."

Eloise Gomez Reyes, a Democrat who sponsored the legislation, said the measure is about second chances.

"To correct is to right a wrong; to rehabilitate is to restore," Gomez Reyes said. "Rehabilitation without strategies to ensure the formerly incarcerated have a career is a pathway to recidivism. We must get serious about providing pathways for those that show the determination to turn their lives around."

People who commit violent felonies or sexual crimes are not eligible to petition to have their records cleared.

For decades California has supplemented its firefighting efforts with minimum-security inmates. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) operates 43 conservation camps, or fire camps, throughout the state. Hundreds of inmates have been used each year to battle recent fires.

The legislation that Newsom signed says three inmate firefighters have died since 2017.

The average compensation for an inmate firefighter is $3.63 per day, and they earn an additional $1.00 per day when deployed to an active fire, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokeswoman Christine McMorrow said in August.

Despite their extensive training and heroic efforts in times of crisis, former inmates are often denied roles in fire departments because of their felony records.

Most fire departments require candidates to have an EMT license, which can be extremely difficult to acquire with a felony conviction.

The Conservation Camp Program supports state, local and federal government agencies as they respond to emergencies such as fires, floods and other natural or man-made disasters.

Inmate crews are assigned to a wide range of duties. When not assigned to fires, inmate crews work on fuel reduction projects near their camp location. During fires, inmate crews are assigned to initial attack, fire line creation and cleanups to make a fire safe or reduce residual smoke after the fire is controlled, according to the USDA Forest Service.

With 12 to 17 inmates in each crew, inmate firefighters work as "hand crews" who use hand tools like shovels, rakes and axes to construct the fire line.

This year there are significantly fewer inmate firefighting crews helping to battle California's devastating wildfires due to the state prison system's early release program, according to Cal Fire.

In July, the CDCR announced its decision to release as many as 17,600 inmates early to protect the prison population and staff from the coronavirus pandemic.

The early releases have meant there are 600 fewer inmate firefighters available this fire season compared to last year, McMorrow said last month.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 320990

Reported Deaths: 3682
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah52083644
Washington35615280
Marion33366399
Clackamas27185275
Lane24597256
Jackson21336267
Deschutes17215104
Umatilla13006129
Douglas10969202
Linn1083488
Josephine8772173
Yamhill7704101
Klamath666493
Polk642172
Malheur494667
Benton474228
Coos436272
Columbia333539
Jefferson325747
Lincoln283430
Union280938
Wasco248139
Crook220639
Clatsop217526
Tillamook185123
Baker180524
Morrow170721
Curry168617
Hood River165835
Harney88318
Grant8678
Lake7418
Wallowa54012
Gilliam1404
Sherman1333
Wheeler651
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 4680552

Reported Deaths: 68599
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles145417226013
Riverside3600584843
San Diego3543914051
San Bernardino3490475540
Orange3162215384
Sacramento1516592138
Santa Clara1411661844
Fresno1373871927
Kern1369321532
Alameda1168001333
San Joaquin983511628
Ventura982921134
Contra Costa96331924
Stanislaus814771256
Tulare74142898
San Mateo52540612
San Francisco52328615
Monterey49733567
Solano44452312
Santa Barbara43353505
Merced39734546
Sonoma39609384
Placer37033367
Imperial34462755
Kings30419293
San Luis Obispo28582318
Madera22042263
Butte21781236
Shasta21374290
Santa Cruz20255214
Yolo19359239
Marin17200242
El Dorado16194130
Sutter13228154
Napa1235295
Yuba937161
Nevada856885
Tehama843786
Humboldt843093
San Benito711470
Mendocino698476
Lassen653027
Tuolumne623393
Lake613592
Amador498859
Glenn407530
Siskiyou406241
Calaveras351170
Del Norte342035
Colusa293918
Inyo168539
Mono15145
Plumas12676
Mariposa102713
Trinity74310
Modoc6278
Sierra1980
Unassigned1370
Alpine1010
Out of CA00
Medford
Cloudy
59° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 59°
Brookings
Cloudy
55° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 55°
Crater Lake
Cloudy
59° wxIcon
Hi: 43° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 59°
Grants Pass
Cloudy
59° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 59°
Klamath Falls
Cloudy
66° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 66°
Cloudy, cool, and damp Monday
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events