As the state of California enters its fourth year of record-breaking drought, parched forests are erupting in flames. So far in 2015, at least 4,382 wildfires have razed over 117,960 acres of woods, threatening thousands of homes and contributing to Gov. Jerry Brown’s unprecedented decision to restrict the amount of water Californians can use.
California employs about 6,000 professionals to fight its many wildfires. But because that’s not nearly enough to do the job, the state also assigns 4,000 prison inmates to work in the fire camps, clearing out brush and battling 50-foot-high flames.
The inmates “are not the ones up in the helicopters” dumping fire retardant, says Bill Sessa, a spokesperson for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. “But they’re in the thick of it, cutting fire lines and helping to save large areas of California.”