USA– San Bernardino County has its first female inmate fire hand crew the first such female county crew in the nation to assist firefighters during wildfires.
The women graduated from the training program during a ceremony Monday afternoon at Glen Helen Rehabilitation Center, in Devore, according to a sheriffs news release.
The 13-member hand crew, also known as Glen Helen Crew 15-9, started their training in July, with 8 weeks of initial training in wildland fire suppression techniques, along with the basic Incident Command System, first-aid, CPR, confined space awareness, chainsaw operations, and small engine and facility repair.
To be considered for the crew, the inmate must be a low-level offender (no criminal history of violence, sexual or serious violations); must have 15-18 months sentence left to serve; no documented gang affiliation; no prior discipline; and must not be a flight risk, Sheriff John McMahon said in a prepared statement.
In May 2013, the first male hand crew began their academy with 15 members ready to respond in July 2013.
Since that time, the male inmate crew has grown to 34 and, with the addition of the 13 women who graduated Monday, inmate hand crews are available to serve the citizens of this county.
I am very proud of the accomplishments made by each and every one of the women sitting before you this afternoon, McMahon said. Our goal is to assist them in turning their lives around and send them back into mainstream society rehabilitated, educated and ready for employment.
Since completing the academy, the female inmate hand crew has been deployed to assist in a vegetation fire in Victorville, with several upcoming assignments to include preparation for El Niño.
Fire crews have proven to be an invaluable resource in more ways than one, officials said.
The hand crews main objective is to assist with local fuels reduction programs and chipping operations; assisting other county departments in meeting their mission in a cost effective manner, saving the county an estimated $1 million per year, Deputy Fire Chief Jim Johnstone said. The crew also responds to fire suppression incidents, as well as other types of emergency operations such as sandbagging.