May 7, 2015 7:32 PM by News Staff
Working on the fire lines certainly sounds better than sitting in a jail cell, and that's why hundreds of California's low level offenders are in Tehama County preparing to fight fire this summer.
Forty-seven crews of low risk inmates are at the Ishi Conservation Camp in Tehama County for some on the job training.
The inmates are graded and timed on how quickly and well they create fire lines, and perform the other duties necessary to assist Cal Fire when a blaze breaks out.
Corrections and Fire officials say the inmates provide invaluable help to Cal Fire crews during wildfire season and have for years. Firefighting is also a way for inmates to get some job experience before being released, something quite a few inmates don't have.
Critics of the program often express concerns about inmates walking away from the fire camps, but officials say the risk isn't worth the reward. One of the most recent escape attempts ended in capture nine days later, the offender had nine years added to his sentence.