Many American states use the labor of inmates to help fight its fires, but none so more than California. Using incarcerated firefighters saves the state’s taxpayers an estimated $100 million a year.
The women that choose to enter the firefighting camps are afforded better pay, by prison standards, and an improved quality of time served. However, the money they earn from putting their lives on the line is dwarfed by the salaries of the civilian firefighters they work alongside — one woman reports to earn $500 a year, compared with the $40,000 starting salary on the outside.
On today’s episode of The Sunday Read, Jaime Lowe explores California’s invisible line of defense against wildfires.
“The Daily” is made by Theo Balcomb, Andy Mills, Lisa Tobin, Rachel Quester, Lynsea Garrison, Annie Brown, Clare Toeniskoetter, Paige Cowett, Michael Simon Johnson, Brad Fisher, Larissa Anderson, Wendy Dorr, Chris Wood, Jessica Cheung, Stella Tan, Alexandra Leigh Young, Lisa Chow, Eric Krupke, Marc Georges, Luke Vander Ploeg, Kelly Prime, Julia Longoria, Sindhu Gnanasambandan, M.J. Davis Lin, Austin Mitchell, Neena Pathak, Dan Powell, Dave Shaw, Sydney Harper, Daniel Guillemette, Hans Buetow, Robert Jimison, Mike Benoist, Bianca Giaever, Liz O. Baylen, Asthaa Chaturvedi and Rachelle Bonja. Our theme music is by Jim Brunberg and Ben Landsverk of Wonderly. Special thanks to Sam Dolnick, Mikayla Bouchard, Lauren Jackson, Julia Simon, Mahima Chablani, Nora Keller, Sofia Milan and Desiree Ibekwe.