San Bernardino County – Inmate Fire Crew Program
In the southwestern corner of sprawling San Bernardino County, hard against the San Bernardino mountains, there’s a rustic old fire camp. It’s almost quaint when you first see it, but it doesn’t take long to realize that the crews training there are engaged in serious business. They are training to fight wild land fires in the rugged mountains just to the north—and with the drought in its fourth year, they are already busy.
When they are not actually fighting fires, the young men at the camp keep busy doing calisthenics, hiking the mountains and learning the proper use of chainsaws and a hand tool known as a “Pulaski”—part axe and part hoe. They have the easy camaraderie and slightly macho attitude common to young men doing difficult, dangerous work. What is not apparent from the camp or its occupants is that the camp is run by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, and the young men learning to fight fire are all inmates.