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The Inmate Fire Training Facility Graduates The Fourth Class of Inmate Fire Fighters

04/22/2013

The fourth class of inmates assigned to the newly formed "Inmate Fire Training Facility," graduated on Monday April 22, 2013. The Inmate Fire Training Facility is a joint venture of the Los Angeles County Sheriff and the Los Angeles County Fire Departments. They are part of the State Realignment Plan (AB109), which places lower security level inmates ("N3", Nonviolent, Non-serious, Non-sexual) in the custody of local law enforcement agencies. Many of the inmates, whom 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 fill the vacancies in the five Los Angeles County Fire Department inmate fire camps, the Sheriff's Department was tasked with selecting, screening, and physically training the 53 inmates who just graduated from the program.



The inmates undergo several weeks of arduous physical conditioning and strenuous work projects, supervised by the eight deputies and two sergeants at the Inmate Fire Training Facility. The inmates hike three to six miles daily, in the hills and fire trails surrounding the 2600 acre Pitchess Detention Center. They also attend educational classes, culinary and safe food handling classes, and provide a steady supply of manpower for the many maintenance and beautification projects on the sprawling facility.



The Fire Department then trains the inmates 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, and utilizes many existing training resources.



The incentive for inmates working on a fire crew includes having their existing sentence cut in half, working on a daily basis instead of sitting idle in a jail cell, but also being able to have a possible career when they are released. Many federal and state fire agencies do hire felons who have experience working on inmate fire crews (Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, United States Forest Service, CALFIRE).



The Sheriff and Fire Departments plan on training 500-700 inmates a year in the program, which not only ensures a steady supply of fire crews, but also aids in freeing up additional bed space in the county jail system. The ultimate goal of the program is to hopefully turn the lives of these men around, to give them something to strive for, and stop the cycle of returning to jail.









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