Thumbs up: A career path for inmate firefighters

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In the fight against a wildfire, prison inmates perform some of the most physically demanding front-line work. They clear brush and trees with hand tools, often working in steep terrain, to help cut breaks to stop fires from spreading. At times, they’re asked to work 24-hour shifts. And they get paid $2 a day, plus $1 an hour for time spent on the fire lines. After last fall’s North Bay fires, we started hearing from readers wanting to know why more of these volunteers don’t get opportunities to use their training after being released from prison.

We heard a variety of reasons from officialdom, including the differences between the duties of hand crew members and people with so-called Firefighter 1 classifications from training academies. The Sacramento Bee reports that the state is starting a program that might help some inmates find firefighting work on the outside. Up to 80 newly released parolees will receive Firefighter 1 training at an 18-month camp scheduled to open next month in Ventura County. Cal Fire, the California Conservation Corps and the state correction department are running the program. Thumbs up.

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