Monday, June 23, 2008

More Than 2,400 CDCR Staff and Inmate Firefighters Deployed to Battle Wildfires Statewide

FAIRFIELD - Today, 2,237 California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) inmates supervised by 180 custody staff have been deployed to battle the Wild Fire in Solano and Napa counties, and other raging wildfires statewide.

"Inmate firefighting crews and the custody staff who supervise them are a critical component of the state's coordinated effort to battle wildfires and to respond to other emergencies," said CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate. "Right now, a total of 156 inmate firefighter crews from 42 conservation camps are assisting the state gain control of these devastating fires scattered primarily throughout Central and Northern California."

Since 1946, the Conservation Camp Program has provided California with a well-trained, well-equipped workforce for fire suppression. More than 4,400 male and female inmates participate in the program, which consist of approximately 200 fire crews. The crews respond nearly every type of emergency, including wildfires, floods, search and rescue operations, and earthquakes. They also log millions of hours annually on fire reduction and conservation projects and provide forest, range and watershed enhancement on public lands.

CDCR jointly manages 39 adult and juvenile camps with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and five adult camps with the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

Only minimum-custody inmates may participate in the Conservation Camp Program. They must be physically fit and have no history of a violent crime, including kidnapping, sex offenses, arson or escape. Juvenile offenders earn their way into camp placement and must be free of major rule infractions. Wards convicted of sex offenses or arson are excluded.

"The Conservation Camp Program provides an enormous benefit to offenders. They learn skills, teamwork and discipline that will serve them well when they are released from prison," Cate added. "The citizens of California benefit by having a fully trained workforce able to respond to fires, while saving more than $80 million every year that otherwise would be paid to accomplish the same tasks."

For information on covering and interviewing CDCR staff and inmates in firefighting crews, contact:
Capt. Ray Harrington, (916) 956-6649
Lt. Rae Stewart, (707) 718-9173

RESOURCES:

NOTE: For high-resolution pictures and b-roll of inmate fire crews contact CDCR's press office at: 916-445-4950.

# # # #