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Inmates trained in fire suppression

Relocating prisoners to fire camps helps free up beds in overcrowded jails

Posted: November 4, 2013 6:14 p.m.
Updated: November 4, 2013 6:14 p.m.

As part of the ongoing effort to reduce jail overcrowding, more than 500 Los Angeles County inmates now in custody are slated to be transferred to county “fire suppression” camps beginning Wednesday, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said.

Twenty inmates who finished rigorous fire training at Pitchess Detention Center will attend a graduation ceremony Wednesday at the jail’s East Facility on The Old Road, said Nicole Nishida, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

The “fire crew” Class of 2013 is the first group to graduate from a program specifically designed to meet state demands on jail overcrowding, and specifically the Public Safety Realignment Plan as spelled out under California Assembly Bill 109, she said.

After the ceremony, graduates will board a bus bound for the Holton Conservation Camp, also called Los Angeles County Fire Camp 16, in Sylmar. Their relocation opens up beds in county jails.

In all, 528 inmates are expected to go through the same training. They’ve already been picked for the program hammered out by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in an effort to comply with the state’s “realignment” of prisoners from state prisons to county jails.

Inmates chosen to participate in the program have to be “non-non-non” inmates, meaning they are convicted of non-violent, non-serious and non-sexual crimes.

The recruits are expected to fill vacancies at the five Los Angeles County Fire Department inmate fire camps. The Sheriff’s Department selected, screened and physically trains the men and women who volunteered for the program, Nishida said.

The inmates undergo several weeks of physical conditioning and strenuous work projects supervised by the staff at the Pitchess Detention Center/Inmate Fire Training Facility, Nishida said.

The Fire Department then trains them in an intensive two-week, 80-hour training program encompassing fire behavior, fire line safety, fire line hazards and use of hand tools, as well as standards of behavior and professionalism. The Fire Department has a long history of training inmates at the Pitchess Detention Center.

The incentives for inmates working on a fire crew include earning an additional day of work credit off their remaining sentences, working on a daily basis instead of sitting idle in a jail cell, and job opportunities when they are released, Nishida said.
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