4,000 Incarcerated Men and Women Fight Calif. Forest Fires

Corrections Forum, November/December 2017 | Go to article overview

4,000 Incarcerated Men and Women Fight Calif. Forest Fires


Inmates are on the front lines of the California forest fires. These inmate firefighters are trained to create a containment line, meaning they're often out ahead of the fire, clearing brush and trying to stop the flames from spreading, described an October report on San Francisco's KALW public radio.

They work in crews of about 12, and each has their own role. Drag spoons are the medics, swampers help the captain look at maps, sawyers and polers cut down and remove shrubbery. Michael Draebom, 37, is a pulaski, named after the axelike tool he uses to chop down stumps and scrape the ground.

"Even though the work is grueling, there are many reasons why people sign up," noted KALW. One inmate/firefighter says the food in the camps is one reason; it's a lot better than what they serve in a regular prison. You get good exercise. Plus, you're not actually in prison.

Another benefit that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation likes to highlight is that this is the best paying job in the prison system. …

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