DiscoverThe DailyThe Sunday Read: 'In the Line of Fire'
The Sunday Read: 'In the Line of Fire'

The Sunday Read: 'In the Line of Fire'

Update: 2020-08-3012
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Many American states use the labor of inmates to help fight its fires, but none so more than California. Using incarcerated firefighters saves the state’s taxpayers an estimated $100 million a year.

The women that choose to enter the firefighting camps are afforded better pay, by prison standards, and an improved quality of time served. However, the money they earn from putting their lives on the line is dwarfed by the salaries of the civilian firefighters they work alongside — one woman reports to earn $500 a year, compared with the $40,000 starting salary on the outside.

On today’s episode of The Sunday Read, Jaime Lowe explores California’s invisible line of defense against wildfires.

This story was written by Jaime Lowe and recorded by Audm. To hear more audio stories from publishers like The New York Times, download Audm for iPhone or Android.

Comments (5)

Jason Bodenheimer

this may be taken the wrong way, but it costs the state of California many tens of thousands of dollars a year to cover the costs of incarceration. the fact that there is a program that allows inmates an opportunity to serve and defend the state is great, I'd say it's better than an inmate being idle. what SHOULD change for sure is: If an inmate gains the training to fight fires on the front line, that should definitely go towards a certificate... we need to give inmates that work hard a path back into society, with transferrable skills. How is this not a thing?

Aug 30th
Reply (1)

e-n M

Not only do the wages suck, but any know-how they garner is worthless when they complete their sentence ... as ex-felons they cannot serve as firefighters/EMTs! this is something state legislators should change ... especially with fires becoming such a regular occurrence in CA.

Aug 30th
Reply (2)
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The Sunday Read: 'In the Line of Fire'

The Sunday Read: 'In the Line of Fire'