Matthew Speiser and Christina Sterbenz – Nearly half the people fighting wildfires wreaking havoc across California are prison inmates

Of the 10,000 men and woman fighting the California wildfires right now, roughly 40% of them are convicted criminals, Capital Public Radio reports.

They are part of the California Department of Corrections’ Conservation Camp, a program run in conjunction with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) that rehabilitates inmates by training them to fight wildfires.

California has relied on inmates to help fight wildfires since the ’80s, and now nearly every one of the Conservation Camp inmates has been dispatched to central and northeast California, according to Capital Public Radio. There, wildfires have charred over 250 square miles of land across 15 counties in the past seven weeks.

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