As California’s deadliest forest fire season draws near, more than half of state fire prisoners currently unavailable to serve the northern half of the state, after prison officers deployed 12 of the 43 state fire camps in quarantine thanks giant flash COVID-19 in Lassen County Prison, which serves as a training center for the nature conservation camp program.
Approximately 2,200 California prisoners serve at the forefront of frequent and devastating state attacks, according to Sacramento BeeIn total, the program has 3,100 prisoners housed in minimum security facilities in 27 districts.
To put this in context, Cal Fire has approximately 6,500 year-round employees, which increase to about 9,000 during the fire season. Prisoners earn between $ 2 and $ 5 a day, plus $ 1 per hour in putting out a fire.
As of Friday, at least 220 inmates at Susanville Prison, located 120 miles north of Lake Tahoe, had tested positive for COVID-19 in the past two weeks, prompting the California Department of Corrections to stop entering and leaving the prison, which includes sending prisoners. to conservation camps, according to state spokesman Aaron Francis.
Until the lock is released, only 30 states out of 77 state prisoners available to fight wildfire in the northern stateprison officials said.
California firefighters have been the state’s main firefighting teams for decades. and shortages have officials scrambling to come up with a replacement for firefighters in the dry season it becomes one of the most extreme in recent yearsThe state hunts for bulldozer teams and recruiting teams, which usually clean brushes as a replacement. –Sacramento Bee
However, according to Francis, only one of the fire inmates showed a positive result on Friday.
Reducing labor will create huge problems for the state if large fires break out this year.
“To block such a number (nature conservation camps), only a few camps remained in the north that could fight fires.“said retired correctional officer Mike Hampton, who served as president of the fire camp system union in accordance with bee, “It will disturb them.”
“Suddenly, we begin to lose prisoners; you cannot replace them with high-risk prisoners,” Hampton added. “This is contrary to the purpose of the program. The whole goal of the program is to fight fires and save state money. You put high-risk prisoners in there, which violates the security point of view for citizens.“.
Identified by their orange fire shape, Prisoners usually do critical and dangerous work using chainsaws and hand tools to cut fire lines around properties and surroundings during forest fires.
Each crew has 17 prisoners, In the field, they are usually supervised by Captain Cal Fire, but sometimes correctional staff will accompany them on assignments outside the county or on local assignments located near residential areas.
Representatives of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Department recognized loss of crew of prisoners due to disease outbreak will become a serious problem this summer, –Sacramento Bee
To cope with the shortage, government fire officials are expanding the use of seasonal firefighters, creating new teams and working with several agencies to ensure the safety of aircraft and bulldozers. According to Amy Head, chief of battalion and spokeswoman for Cal Fire, Cal Fire employees were allowed to work on full-time “fuel crew” teams that interrupt fire by removing brushes and other flammable materials in surrounding communities.
State and federal officials, along with the National Guard and the California Corps of Nature Conservation, were all involved to help find more firefighters, bee reports.
“We do our best to plan ahead“Head said.” Fortunately, we still had nothing too big to deal with. “
Prisoner shortages began many years ago
bee also notes that the number of prisoners available to fight fires has been “steadily declining” in recent years – since only low-level criminals have the right to participate, which government officials detain county or releasing them back to the public.
The department has reduced the total population of the prison system by almost 10,000 prisoners since March. Most of the releases were from people whose terms were already ending, although the state also accelerated the release of 3,500 prisoners, who were closer to the end of their sentence. According to Francis, the prison system also suspended consumption from county prisons, which helped reduce the number of people held by the state.
As a rule, 90 fire brigades of prisoners can fight fires in Northern California, but this year only 77 people were appointed in this region – and that was before the pandemic. –Sacramento Bee
“This is the result of natural exhaustion, accelerated release, and sentencing reform changes that occurred before the COVID-19 pandemic,” Francis said. bee in the email
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