Firefighter: Being part of inmate crew 'saved my life'

T.J O'Neill was sentenced to prison for drugs and drunk driving; he was hired by a fire district after his release

By FireRescue1 Staff

PRESCOTT, Ariz. — A wildland firefighter, who was sentenced to prison for drugs and drunk driving, credits the challenges and structure of firefighting for saving his life.

ABC15 reported that T.J. O'Neill joined an inmate wildfire crew while in prison.

"There were a lot of days that I realized, if I can get through the next hour of my shift, I can get through anything the world can throw at me," O'Neill said.

He was hired by the Sonoita-Elgin Fire District after his release. He's hoping to become an elite hotshot, according to the report.

According to Governor Doug Ducey, inmate fire crews have a lower recidivism rate. As a result, he's asking legislature to approve $1.5 million to fund a new parolee fire crew next year.


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