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Inmate fire crew numbers down in California

Posted at 10:10 PM, May 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-12 09:23:43-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - The pool for inmate fire crews is shrinking after a bill lessening crimes went into effect in California, according to Cal Fire Public Information Officer Issac Sanchez.

A record breaking wet winter led to a superbloom of epic proportions across San Diego County. New growth that will dry out and turn to tinder this summer, according to fire officials.

"We are poised daily, year round now to fight wildfire," Cal Fire Director Thom Porter said.

Cal Fire relying on every resource to lend a hand if necessary.

Our sister station in Redding reported last year one particular kind of crew is running low. Easy to see in their orange fire gear, volunteer inmate crews help firefigthers by completing tasks like digging fire breaks.

Last year they had a "brown out" where they had to deactivate a crew to keep the others adequately staffed.

"From what I understand it is absolutely an impact," Sanchez said referring to AB 109. The law, passed in 2011 lessened crimes for convicts ultimately letting out hundreds.

According to our sister station, the humber of inmates at fire camps dropped from 2013 by 11%. That's 451 inmates.

Leaving the CDCR with more work, "to identify and kinda steer eligible candidates into the program," Sanchez said.

He said inmates must meet certain criteria like working well with others, being non-violent offenders, and meeting physical requirements.

"We still have enough folks to staff the crews, it's just a matter of identifying them at this point," Sanchez said.

In San Diego County we have four inmate fire camps, in Fallbrook, Warner Springs, Julian and Boulevard.