About 200 of the firefighters battling California's deadly Camp Fire are inmates, a local ABC affiliate reports, who have joined a volunteer firefighting program through the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
The inmate firefighters earn $2 per day plus $1 per hour for their work, which is well above average for prison wages in the state. They can also receive time off their sentences. Previous blazes have seen far larger groups of inmates at work; around 2,000 participated in efforts to stop the Mendocino Complex Fire earlier this year.
Despite the training and experience inmates accrue through the firefighting program, they likely will not be able to become firefighters upon release. California firefighters are required to be licensed emergency medical technicians (EMTs), and EMT licensure can be blocked for anyone with a criminal record.
"The persistent, horrific wildfires year after year make this human rights issue even more pressing for the men and women fighting these fires every day who cannot do so once released," Katherine Katcher of Root and Rebound, which works on prison re-entry issues in California, told Reason. The state's licensing rules, Katcher said, "shut people out of living wage careers that they are trained and qualified for solely because of old, expunged, and irrelevant convictions."