By The Times Editorial Board, Los Angeles Times, November 1, 2019
As California continues to burn, the state’s firefighters have spent day after day in the searing heat and ferocious wind, hiking toward the flames, cutting fire lines and protecting homes. It’s grueling, heroic work that saves lives and prevents more devastation. And sometimes, it’s done by prison inmates.
Among the thousands of federal, state and local firefighters on the fire lines, there are also more than 2,500 prisoners who volunteer and train to serve on fire crews. But while these men and women may work alongside professional firefighters now, once they get out of prison, their criminal record will make it virtually impossible for them to get hired as city or county firefighters.
The reason? California makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for an inmate firefighter to get the emergency medical technician license needed to become a city or county firefighter. As a result, all that training and expertise the inmates gain while incarcerated can’t help them land a job in their hometown fire department.