‘A human tragedy’: Wildfires reveal California’s reliance on incarcerated firefighters

Lay bare the state’s reliance on prison labor to control its ever-growing wildfire season with an exploitative system many have called slave labor.

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SOURCEDemocracy Now!

As climate-fueled wildfires engulf California, tens of thousands of firefighters have been deployed across the state to combat the blazes amid a record heat wave and deadly pandemic. We look at how more than 1,300 incarcerated firefighters — who are annually deployed to the frontlines in California for just $1 an hour — are fighting back the blazes as coronavirus outbreaks in state prisons limit how many are available to fight the fires, and lay bare the state’s reliance on prison labor to control its ever-growing wildfire season with an exploitative system many have called slave labor. “What they’re not saying is we lack the incarcerated firefighters … [who] make up the backbone of the firefighting department,” says Rasheed Lockheart, who was a firefighter at San Quentin State Prison until his release in January.

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