Letters to the Editor: Let inmate firefighters become civilian firefighters after prison

Inmates on a fire crew rest at camp after working on the Thomas fire in Ventura County on Dec. 12, 2017.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: For years, I have visited the female firefighter inmates at Fire Camp 13 near Malibu with parishioners from Westlake Village. As faith leaders, we have personally witnessed the transformation of women from prisoners into citizens ready to serve, to protect our home and hills. (“California could soon end its dumb policy on inmate firefighters. What took so long?” Aug. 31)

They were the first responders when Kobe Bryant lost his life in the hills in Calabasas. They stood with chain saws creating fire lines and breaks in the Woolsey fire, and they will do the same for whatever fire is next. I trust them completely.

Let these women and other inmates like them apply their skills acquired in prison to save our hills and lives as California firefighters after they are released. They are a treasured resource we desperately need.

Nan Cano, Westlake Village


To the editor: Erika D. Smith’s column on inmate firefighters misleadingly criticizes California for not allowing released inmate firefighters to do the “same thing” as their firefighting job while incarcerated.


Inmate firefighters work as part of a hand crew performing manual labor to establish control lines around fires. Civilian firefighters working for Cal Fire or municipal departments have additional responsibilities, notably providing medical assistance. Inmates do not respond to medical calls, which often make up more than 70% of a civilian department’s calls.

If former inmates want a job doing exactly the same thing as their hand crew, they should join a federal hotshot crew, which is comparable to an inmate hand crew.

However, former inmate firefighters should be given a second chance, as provided in the bill by Assemblywoman Eloise Gomez Reyes allowing expungement of convictions for former inmate firefighters.

Nicholas Bender, Carmichael, Calif.