Lowering the Prison Population Could Mean Fewer Firefighters

Interesting fact, via the Disaster Accountability Blog, about how state budget woes and a court order to lower prison population could affect firefighting:

According to a California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation press release, “there are 2,245 adult inmates and 53 Division of Juvenile Justice youth deployed to fires statewide, including Los Angeles, Riverside, and 15 other counties,” under the supervision of “187 correctional officers and supervisors.” According to Reuters, “Inmates collectively did 3.1 million hours of emergency firefighting last year at $1 an hour.” California relies heavily on this labor and many worry that a release of 27,000 or more low-risk inmates will forfeit their availability.

The two firefighters who died in the Station Fire last Sunday were assigned to Camp 16, one of the many prison camps where inmates are trained in wilderness protection. It appears they died searching for an escape route for workers, 55 inmates and other fire personnel.