Inmates are being paid $1 an hour to fight the historic wildfires overtaking California.
The women of Malibu Conservation Camp #13 are part of a group of incarcerated individuals who fight California wildfires, assisting firefighters around the state. Out of 43 firefighting camps across the state, three of them are made up of female inmates, according to Bill Sessa, Information Officer for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). All camps are run by the department.
The women of Malibu Conservation Camp #13 have been called out to 177 fires so far in 2017 and have been actively fighting against the record-braking fires that have been devastating California this summer.
“We are the ones that do the line. We are the ones that carry the hose out. We’re the line of defense,” inmate Sarah Welsh told NBC News.
There are about 3,800 inmates enrolled in the volunteer firefighting program through the CDCR. In order to be part of the program, inmates have to pass physical tests and cannot have been convicted of a violent crime. No inmates are involuntarily placed into the fire program. According to NBC News, the program saves California taxpayers $124 million a year. While the women make $1 an hour while fighting fires, they make $2 a day when they are at camp. Not only do they fight against major wildfires, like those ravaging Anaheim and Napa Valley, the women also provide backup for the Los Angeles County Fire Department, according to NBC News.
“We basically fight fires and it gives us a chance to better ourselves mentally and physically,” Latoya Najar, an inmate of Malibu Conservation Camp #13, told NBC News.