Thursday, October 25, 2007
Prisoners help fight fires
If you've never been to fire camp, you're missing something. What a scene.

I'm at the Santiago Canyon fire camp in Orange County, not too far from Irvine. It's basically a state park that gets taken over by all kinds of emergency crews: firefighters, police, animal shelter experts, media and prisoners.

Yes, prisoners. California has long had a program where state inmates help fight fires. They show up in orange jump suits, they're monitored by prison guards, and they are a big part of the relief effort.

Still, it's kind of interesting to see all these fire guys and prisoners essentially at the same outdoor dining tent, getting hot eggs and potatoes, fueling up for the long day and night ahead.

Then there are the mobile units. These are often pulled by semis, and expand into large communication centers, with all kinds of electronics sticking out. The big rigs remind me of the Jetsons, when some huge contraption would pop out of a suitcase, then later fold back up inside.

There are more than 1,000 firefighters out on the line -- just this for the Santiago Canyon fire, which has burned 23,000 acres so far. It takes a lot of personnel to back them up, and they all float through fire camp.

This massive infrastructure is a reminder that in California, at least, fighting fire is more than a public obligation; it's an industry.

-- By Keith Oppenheim, CNN Correspondent
Posted By CNN: 2:41 PM ET
  3 Comments
Keith

The camp sounds like an interesting place to see. What about doing a segment on it to show all us back East what a California fire camp looks like?

Thanks!

Annie Kate
Birmingham, AL
Posted By Annie Kate : 3:16 PM ET
An industry that puts their training, their heart and soul and their lives on the line.
There was the Zaca fire here in Santa Barbara County all Summer. It burned for over two months.
I was able firsthand to talk to some of those firefighters and was humbled by their sense of duty and how they do their job never seeking praise. My hat's off to each and everyone of them..
Posted By Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif. : 3:30 PM ET
PLEASE tell the CNN correspondents in Southern CA to put on surgical masks to protect their lungs. We can still hear them through their masks. By doing so they will both protect themselves and set better examples. We should have learned this after 9/11.
Posted By Janet Dickinson : 5:36 PM ET
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