Arizona to train 700 inmates as wildland firefighters

The state seeks to drastically increase its number of inmate firefighters ahead of the next fire season


Adrian Skabelund
The Arizona Daily Sun, Flagstaff

PHOENIX — As Arizona looks ahead to what could be a busy fire season, state officials are hoping inmates might present part of a solution.

Gov. Doug Ducey this month signed into law a new initiative this month that, in part, would train about 700 Arizona Department of Corrections inmates as wildland firefighters.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (center) signed into law this month a new initiative to train 700 inmates as wildland firefighters. Ducey met with an all-female inmate fire crew in 2019 to recognize their efforts.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (center) signed into law this month a new initiative to train 700 inmates as wildland firefighters. Ducey met with an all-female inmate fire crew in 2019 to recognize their efforts. (Photo/Arizona Office of the Governor)

The program is couched as a win-win situation, providing more manpower to fight wildfires for forest restoration work, while providing the inmates involved with an opportunity to build skills before their release.

"I'm confident that this will help reduce recidivism by giving state inmates the opportunity to learn job skills for employment upon release," Ducey said during a call with rural press. "I know among some folks a stigma remains, but the overwhelming majority of the public has seemed open-minded to this this opportunity."

Inmates assisting with firefighting efforts is not new in Arizona. The state has had about 200 inmates in such programs, and some of those crews even helped respond to the Museum Fire near Flagstaff in 2019.

Later that year during a joint meeting, the Flagstaff City Council and Coconino County Board of Supervisors recognized the efforts of the Perryville prison all-female fire crew who helped fill and stack sandbags in concerns about fears of post-fire flooding.

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(c)2021 The Arizona Daily Sun (Flagstaff, Ariz.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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