CA state and local governments deem inmate brush firefighters a valuable asset that makes good sense. But the idea of forming CIVILIAN VOLUNTEER brush firefighting brigades to fight the fires and protect homes when these fires approach housing areas is somehow not safe — for union firefighters.
Few people realize how big our California prisoner firefighting effort is. There are 196 inmate fire crews that perform more than 3 million hours of emergency response work annually. It’s estimated to save California $80-$100 million a year — combating CA brush and forest fires. The story below about this program is illuminating (sorry), but should result in some heated (again, my bad) debate.
In my subdivision (Scripps Ranch in San Diego) we lost 330 homes to the 2003 Cedar brush fire — mostly abandoned homes burned down by embers. Many homes were saved — by homeowners who stayed behind and put out the ember fires before they grew. The fire trucks arrived hours late — in large part the result of too many called-up union firefighters living far away from our city.
Afterwards many of us tried to get the city to train and equip us as volunteer reserve firefighters. But the city would not condone the formation of such a group — after consulting the fire chief and the firefighters’ union president.
The city of San Diego (and ALL CA governments) have no interest in forming volunteer firefighting reserves to be called up in such emergencies. The main obstacle is our overpaid professional firefighters, who want only union “boots on the ground.” These “heroes” prefer that our homes burn down than than allow establishing such a sensible bulwark.
BTW: Are CA firefighters overpaid? Yes!
FACT: The average California firefighter is paid 60% more than paid firefighters in other 49 states — and that’s not counting the 70+% of America’s firefighters who are VOLUNTEERS. (CA cops are paid 56% more than cops average in the other 49 states.) Yet the CA 2011 median household income (including government workers) is only 13.4% above the national average.
CONTRA COSTA TIMES
Firefighting inmates in California fill a void, gain a lot
By Katrina Cameron firstname.lastname@example.org
Inmates from Delta Camp #8, Crew No. 2 practice cutting a hand line as a part of a community service fire-prevention project at Lafayette Reservoir in Lafayette, Calif., on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015. The camp is jointly operated by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and …
Inmate fire crews help with fire-prevention project at Lafayette Reservoir
LAFAYETTE — While some may see them as felons in jumpsuits, California residents of cities affected by threatening wildfires know inmate firefighters as the “angels in orange.”
“I think the best part is when you get off a shift and you’re cruising through the town and there are little old ladies or little old men goin ‘Thank you, firefighters,'” said inmate firefighter Culvin May, 39, from the Delta Conservation Camp in Suisun City.
There are 196 inmate fire crews that perform more than 3 million hours of emergency response work annually, making the program an essential tool in the state’s firefighting system, according to Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant. Inmate firefighters make up about one-third of the Cal Fire crews responding to wildfires throughout the state.
Inmates from Delta Camp # 8, Crew No. 2 practice cutting a hand line as a part of a community service fire-prevention project at Lafayette Reservoir in Lafayette on Sept. 3, 2015. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)
This year has been particularly taxing on firefighters with the uptick in the number of fires as a result of the drought.
“The program itself is a critical component of our firefighting system in California,” Berlant said. “It provides a huge workforce in helping us contain wildfires.”
May is among 3,800 low-level offenders, including 225 women, who volunteer and train to work on the front lines of wildfires or in conservation camps year-round, said Bill Sessa, spokesman for California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. There are 43 volunteer firefighter camps throughout the state, which saves $80 million to $100 million per year through the Conservation Camp Program, Sessa said.
. . .
- The state of California saves $80 million to $100 million per year through the Conservation Camp Program.
- There are 3,800 volunteer firefighter inmates on the fire lines this year.
- Only 226 of those volunteers are women.
- Inmates undergo four weeks of training before heading to a fire camp.
- There are 40 fire camps for male inmates; three fire camps for female inmates.
- There are 196 inmate fire crews, consisting of 15-17 inmates per crew.
- Volunteer inmate firefighters perform more than 3 million hours of emergency work annually.
- On average, inmates make roughly $2 a day. When they’re on the fire line, volunteer inmate firefighters make an additional $1 per hour.
- Volunteer firefighter inmates get two days off their sentence for every one day they work.
- During wildfire season, firefighters can work up to 24 hours straight on the fire line, followed by 24 hours off.