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Video: Calif. inmate firefighter steals, crashes fire engine

The 31-year-old inmate, who had been on a CAL FIRE crew battling a wildfire outside Sacramento, drove the engine off the road and rammed it through a fence


A CAL FIRE inmate crew watches as fire retardant is dropped at the Bruder fire in Redlands, Calif., last year.

Teresa Watanabe
Los Angeles Times

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — An inmate firefighter stole a fire truck while fighting a vegetation fire in Gold Country outside Sacramento, California, and took it on a joyride before crashing and injuring himself, a fire official said Monday.

The 31-year-old inmate destroyed the fire engine when he drove it off the road and rammed it through a fence and into the lot of Rack-It Truck Racks in Shingle Springs, about 40 miles east of Sacramento, said Alisha Herring, spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. He was working with Cal Fire’s Amador-El Dorado unit and took the engine about 12:40 a.m. Monday, two hours after the crew responded to the vegetation fire, Herring said.

The inmate was taken to a local hospital for injuries but is in good condition and expected to recover, said Terry Thornton, spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. No other firefighters or civilians were injured.

Thornton said that the inmate’s name is being withheld pending an investigation but that he was admitted from Orange County in 2015.

He was one of more than 900 inmates deployed in 62 inmate firefighter crews trained and certified to serve on the fire line for blazes statewide under the direction of a fire captain, Herring said. Those crews, however, are expected to shrink as California prepares to shut down one of its main training facilities for inmate firefighters as part of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to reduce the state’s prison population, NBC News has reported.

“During the incident, significant damage was done to the engine as well as private and public property,” Thornton said in a statement. Herring put the cost of replacing the fire engine at about $280,000.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is working with CDCR and local law enforcement to investigate.


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