In August, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation tweeted that 2,000 incarcerated people were working to fight fires.
The incarcerated firefighters often carry out the grueling task of cutting firelines, using tools like chainsaws, axes and hoes to create a path of exposed soil to block fires. The work is extremely dangerous. Shawna Lynn Jones, 22, died after she was injured fighting a fire in Malibu in 2016. A large stone fell about 100 feet and hit her head, knocking her unconscious. At the time of her death, she had less than two months left on her prison sentence.
According to The New York Times, incarcerated firefighters make $1 an hour while fighting a fire and up to $2.56 a day at the “conservation camps” where workers live. They are not eligible to be hired as professional firefighters after they are released from prison.
‘‘The pay is ridiculous,’’ said La’Sonya Edwards, a 35-year-old incarcerated woman who makes a little more than $500 a year. ‘‘There are some days we are worn down to the core,’’ she said. ‘‘And this isn’t that different from slave conditions. We need to get paid more for what we do.’’