Serving Time While Fighting Fires: Inmate Forest Firefighters

It sure beats sitting behind bars. State prison inmates throughout the country often are allowed outside prison walls to provide certain and specific services to the community. One of the services that have been brought to the attention of citizens lately through news outlets is the heroic deeds performed by inmate firefighters.

Serving Time By Fighting Fires

Certain inmates, depending on their prison standing, have the option to receive training in order to become forest firefighters. Every state has their own guidelines to follow to determine who can be allowed on these squads. Most however, only allow inmates who are minimum security, medically cleared, and have less than 2 remaining years to be served on their sentence. The last part helps to assure that inmates will not try to flee or escape. The reason being that if they are caught, 5 years are automatically added to their sentence. So it’s assumed that no one would care to risk adding another 5 years to their sentence when less than 2 remains to be served.

Every inmate is prepared for forest firefighting duty through a rigorous training course over a month. Two weeks are devoted to fire fighting training and technique, with another two weeks devoted towards physical training. They are trained both mentally and physically just as any new recruit would be. The last thing wanted is to put lives in danger due to a lack of skill or ability.


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Concerns Over Using Inmates

There are those that may be concerned over using inmates to fight forest fires, but that seems a bit disconcerting to hear. Not only do they volunteer for the program, which in itself is a good deed. But if someone is need of help, does it really matter who outreaches his or her hand in an offer to help? It seems those in need would be glad to be helped by anyone willing to do so. One of the ideas of serving time in prison is to be rehabilitated. It would appear that by providing help to others in this dangerous manner is more than a proper step in that direction. There are instances where inmates die fighting these fires, and for that, they are no less a hero than anyone else.

Benefits To Using Inmates

In California alone, 2,300 inmates are used providing over 3 million hours worth of firefighting and other efforts every year. These inmates are compensated by the state with a wage of $0.60 and hour. Imagine if that many hours had to be paid out to other non-convicted firefighters. The hazard pay alone would make for an astounding number. So not only does the sate benefit from cheap emergency labor, people are helped and rescued when they need to be. Other states offer better wages for inmates, such as Wyoming where the pay is $1.50 an hour. Still, this is drastically lower than what would be paid out otherwise to non-inmates.

There is one last benefit that can be had from allowing inmates to partake in such activities, and that is the fulfillment felt from the inmates themselves by helping others. Many inmates saying their efforts produce some of the proudest moments in their lives. This is especially apparent when those they’ve actually helped, show up in groves to offer they thanks. I believe this has an enormous impact on inmates, especially when you consider that this scenario, one of fulfillment through good deeds, may be rare or never occur otherwise in their lives. It offers different lenses for them to view their life through, both on what they’ve done in the past, how they currently conduct themselves, and their future actions.


So all in all it seems a win/win for everybody. The states save money, people are helped, and inmates receive countless benefits as well. If other forms of “community service” like this were available, I believe it would have a tremendous positive impact on just about every party involved. Seems a good option to talk over in the future for better ways to rehabilitate convicts.

The author of this article is Damien S. Wilhelmi, an SEO tactician and SEM strategist. If you enjoyed this article you can follow me on twitter @FacePalmLaw. I am writing on behalf of the Law Office of Phil Clark, who are experienced and trusted in the realm of Boulder DUI Lawyers.

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