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California Prison Inmates to Help Fight FiresSalem-News.com
Gov. Schwarzenegger Directs CDCR to Utilize Inmate Fire Crews in Response to Major Wildfires.
(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) - California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today directed inmate firefighters and staff from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to deploy across Southern California to work hand-in-hand with state and local firefighters.
As of today, more than 2,300 CDCR inmates and more than 170 custody staff have joined firefighters from city and county fire departments and state agencies as part of a major coordinated effort to battle the widespread wildfires in Southern California.
“These crews provide critical support to the state’s firefighting response, going where bulldozers and heavy equipment cannot go,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “Inmate firefighters and CDCR staff at our institutions are an integral piece of the state’s disaster response team. Fire camp crews are being activated and deployed as rapidly as possible.
“Firefighters are continuing to work around the clock to contain the Southern California fires and I want to extend my thanks for their bravery and dedication.”
In addition to inmate fire crews, strike teams made up of CDCR fire captains, staff and fire engines have been deployed from fire departments at the California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi, California Correctional Center in Susanville, Mule Creek State Prison in Ione and the Chuckawalla Valley State Prison in Blythe. Additional inmate firefighting crews and the staff who supervise them are currently being mobilized.
Governor Schwarzenegger has led a coordinated state effort to make all resources through the state available to fight the fires in Southern California and has directed the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (OES) and the California National Guard (CNG) to activate additional personnel and make more fire and rescue resources available.
Earlier today, the Governor directed the CNG to make 1,500 guardsmen available to support the firefighting efforts. The Governor also requested four CNG helicopters through OES. The four aircraft are currently on stand-by at Mather Air Field (1 Firehawk) and Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base (3 UH-60 Blackhawks). The UH-60 Blackhawk and the Firehawk are capable of fire suppression missions as well as personnel transport in and out of dangerous and hard to reach locations.
Governor Schwarzenegger last night proclaimed a State of Emergency in the counties of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Ventura due to more than eleven major wildfires to make more resources available to fight the fires.
The CDCR fire crews are part of the Conservation Camp Program established in 1946. There are 42 adult and two Division of Juvenile Justice conservation camps in California. CDCR jointly manages 39 adult and juvenile camps with CAL FIRE and five adult camps with the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
More than 4,400 offenders participate in the program, which has approximately 200 fire crews. The crews respond to all types of emergencies, including wildfires, floods, search and rescue operations and earthquakes. They also work on conservation and community service projects on public land throughout the year when not fighting fires.
Only minimum-custody inmates participate in the Conservation Camp Program. They must be physically fit and have no history of violent crime including kidnapping, sex offenses, arson or escape. Juvenile offenders earn their way into camp placement and must be free of major rule infractions.
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