SACRAMENTO, Calif. — This week's Why Guy question is from Paulette Longa Parsons: "Why doesn't our government use non-violent criminals to clean up our forest and grasslands to help stop these massive fires?"
Inmate fire crews are vital in fighting wildfires in California. As of Sept. 7, there are 56 inmate crews throughout the state staffed for fire response.
Each of the 56 crews has 14 inmates. They are based out of conservation camps, better known as "fire camps" in 25 counties across California. Inmates are at the ready when called to fight fires and when they're not fighting fires, they are out clearing forests and grasslands.
"These crews are a valuable resource that are utilized year-round to remove fuel to create fuel breaks in and around our communities statewide," according to Jon Heggie, a spokesman for Cal Fire.
Inmates, whether they are fighting fires or clearing land to prevent them, are supervised 24/7. As of two weeks ago, there were 1,669 incarcerated people housed in conservation camps, all classified with minimum custody status.
In addition to fighting fires and clearing land to prevent them, crews may be assigned to rescue efforts in local parks and are also available to respond to flood suppression, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Watch more on ABC10: California Wildfires: Mosquito Fire Update Sept. 18, 2022