[LASD]– The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s and Fire Departments held a graduation ceremony Monday in Castaic for the first two classes of inmates assigned to the newly-formed Inmate Fire Camp Training Facility.
The Inmate Fire Camp Training Facility is a joint venture between the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the Los Angeles County Fire Department. These inmates are part of the State Realignment Plan (AB109), which places lower security level inmates who are non-violent, non-serious crime and non-sexual offenders in the custody of local law enforcement agencies. Many of the inmates, who would normally fill the ranks of state inmate wildland fire crews, are now in the custody of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. To help fill the vacancies in the five Los Angeles County inmate fire camps, the Sheriff’s Department was tasked with selecting, screening, and physically training the first 110 inmates chosen for the program in two phases.
Phase one consisted of several months of arduous physical training. During this time, the inmates were under constant supervision by nine Sheriff’s Deputies and two Sergeants. On average, the inmates hiked three to six miles a day throughout the hills and fire trails surrounding the 2,600-acre Pitchess Detention Center. During their down time, many of the inmates participated in education-based incarceration classes and also had the opportunity to earn their General Education Diploma (GED). Additionally, 60 inmates have participated in a state-approved culinary and safe food handler’s class, receiving a certificate which should aid them in obtaining a job in the food industry upon their release.
Phase two consisted of an intensive two-week, 80-hour, training program which encompassed fire behavior, fire line safety, the use of hand tools and daily written tests. The Fire Department has a long history of educating and providing experience to fire camp inmates. The training program emphasized teamwork and dedication to serving the community. Once trained, 14-man crews are available to respond to fire lines and other natural disasters. “We instilled in them the same sense of preparedness and orderliness that we have in the fire service,” said Fire Chief Daryl Osby.
“Just like our paid fire camp crews, we helped them build the camaraderie and pride that comes from being part of a team. We hope that these new skills and outlook will go with these inmates as they are released from the program and rebuild their lives.”
Fire camp inmates receive a two for one sentence reduction, as well as $1 per day. When inmates are assigned to a brush fire they receive an additional $1 per hour.
The Sheriff’s and Fire Department expect to train 500 to 700 inmates per year in this program. Sheriff Baca strongly believes that “by combining education-based incarceration with fire camp training and experience it will aid in reducing the recidivism rate. Providing inmates with the tools to learn skills and work towards a goal will ultimately benefit them when they enter back into society,” said Sheriff Baca.