SONOMA COUNTY, Calif. — Last year, as many as 2,000 inmate firefighters joined the fight against the California wildfires and now hundreds of inmates are being called to join the fight again this year.
As of Monday morning, more than 700 inmate firefighters have been deployed to help Cal Fire and other local firefighters combat four major fires in California.
The majority of the crews are in Sonoma County trying to bring the Kincade Fire under control, but they are also helping with the Tick, Burris, and Rawson fires.
- Kincade Fire - 352 inmate firefighters
- Tick Fire - 167 inmate firefighters
- Burris Fire- 148 inmate firefighters
- Rawson Fire - 60 inmate firefighters
Inmate firefighters have been trained as wildland firefighters and carry the same entry-level training that a seasonal Cal Fire firefighter would get.
Using inmates to fight fires is not a new concept. The practice goes back to World War II. A depleted workforce left Cal Fire wanting for firefighters, so the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation provided a solution.
According to CDCR, at least one or two crews are sent on the initial dispatch with engines and aircraft, but additional crews can always be requested. They are based in command centers alongside the Cal Fire crews for 24-hour shifts. When their shift is done, another crew takes their place so they can get some rest.