Inmates play major role in fighting Southern California wildfires

Staff Report
The Associated Press

LAKE ARROWHEAD, Calif. (AP) - They may have stolen cars, used drugs or forged checks, but when the state is burning, they fight fires.

Of the 14,000 firefighters defending homes and businesses in Southern California from wildfires this week, about a quarter of them have been prison inmates. Officials say 4,400 inmates are
trained to battle fires in the state and more than 3,000 were on the front lines yesterday (Friday).

A spokesman for the corrections department says it's close to the most the state has ever used.

The inmates go through a four-week training program. They must be physically fit, have no history of violent crime and have between four months to three years remaining on their sentences.

They're paid $1 an hour.

They program started in the 1940s and also makes inmates available for other natural disasters such as earthquakes and flooding.