Inmates On The Fireline

Saturday, October 27th 2007, 1:52 pm
By: News On 6

LAKE ARROWHEAD, Calif. (AP) -- They may have stolen cars, used drugs or forged checks, but when California is burning, they fight fires.

Of the 14,000 firefighters defending homes and businesses in Southern California from wildfires this week, about a quarter of them have been prison inmates. Officials say 4,400 inmates are trained to battle fires in the state and more than 3,000 were on
the front lines on Friday.

A spokesman for the corrections department says it's close to the most the state has ever used.

The inmates go through a four-week training program. They must be physically fit, have no history of violent crime and have between four months to three years remaining on their sentences.

They're paid $1 an hour.

The program started in the 1940s and also makes inmates available for other natural disasters such as earthquakes and flooding.