Female inmate firefighters describe intense training, first fires
The Malibu camp is the only all-female fire camp; inmates receive time off their sentence in exchange for service
By FireRescue1 Staff
MALIBU, Calif. — The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation gives female prisoners the chance to serve time by fighting wildfires and performing community service in the only all-female fire camp.
LA Weekly reported that the Malibu Conservation Camp #13 can hold up to 100 inmates and lacks the normal characteristics of a prison. Inmates spend most of their time outside and get time off of their sentence in exchange for fighting fires.
“It beats prison,” inmate Halleigh Carrigan said. “It’s not behind bars, you get to fight fires, be out in the community.”
L.A. County Fire Department Capt. Damian Ybarra said the women of the camp are dispatched up to five times a week during the dry season, sometimes spending up to two weeks away on location.
“I pretty much panicked on the inside,” Carrigan said about her first fire. “You’re surrounded by flames and all this smoke, and you can’t breathe and you got snot and your eyes are watering. You can’t see.”
In order to be transferred to the camp, inmates are usually required to have three years or less remaining on their sentence and have committed a non-violent offense.
“There’s no way we can keep them from walking [away] or escaping,” Lt. John Scott said.
The inmates also go through intense training.
“We all go through it every day. Like dang, I just want to quit. I just want to quit,” inmate Amanda Owens said. “We end up not quitting, because the alternative is going back to CIW [California Institution for Women] — and we don’t want that.”
Many of the inmates plan to apply to be a firefighter after being released.