News Releases

Inmate Firefighters and CDCR Staff Save Taxpayers Nearly $80 Million Annually

CDCR Inmate Firefighters Respond To Southern California Winter Flood Emergencies

SACRAMENTO – Officials of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) today recognized the efforts of inmate crews and correctional staff who responded to flooding in San Bernardino and Riverside counties, thereby saving homes and property.

“Inmate firefighting crews and the custody staff were a critical component in the state’s response to Southern California floods last month,” said George Giurbino, CDCR’s Director of the Division of Adult Institutions. “Inmate crews and our staff are highly skilled and self-sufficient, enabling them to go where bulldozers and heavy equipment cannot go. In addition to saving lives and property, their work saves California taxpayers nearly $80 million a year.”

On Dec. 21, a state of emergency was issued in Kern, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, and Tulare counties due to heavy rainfall and flooding.

In response, 500 inmates, supervised by 47 correctional staff, were deployed to the Highland and Green Spot, Wrightwood and Colton flood-related incidents from 13 conservation camps: Bautista, Fenner Canyon, La Cima, McCain Valley, Mount Bullion, Mountain Home, Norco, Oak Glen, Owens Valley, Pilot Rock, Prado, Puerta La Cruz, and Rainbow Conservation Camps.

By Dec. 30, more than 37 inmate crews had been deployed to Highland.

“The crews removed mud that was 4- to 5-feet deep that had slipped from the mountainside into the back of homes,” said Lt. D’Arcy, Prado Conservation Camp Commander. “The crews then used the mud to make sandbags to protect the homes from any additional mudslides.”
Crews performed the following tasks:
• filling more than 215,000 sandbags;
• placing approximately 4,000 sandbags around 18 homes on Autumn Chase Drive to direct water and mud flows;
• removing mud from behind residential retaining walls, thereby allowing county officials to remove red tags from most of the homes along one street; and
• removing mud from around vehicles and digging pathways to homes on Merris Drive, one of the hardest hit areas,.

“The community was grateful for the help, and many expressed their new-found respect for the inmate fire crews,” D’Arcy said.

CDCR jointly manages 44 adult and juvenile camps statewide. Thirty-nine are jointly operated with CAL FIRE, and five adult camps are operated with the Los Angeles County Fire Department. Only minimum-custody inmates may participate in the Conservation Camp Program. They must be physically fit and have no history of a violent crime, including kidnapping, sex offenses, or arson.

Since 1946, the Conservation Camp Program has provided California with a well-trained, well-equipped work force for fire suppression. More than 4,000 male and female inmates participate in the program, comprising approximately 200 fire crews. Crews respond to nearly every type of emergency, including wildfires, floods, search and rescue operations, and earthquakes. They also log millions of hours annually on fire-reduction and conservation projects and provide forest-, range- and watershed-enhancement on public lands. The crews will remain on standby throughout the 2011 rainy season for all of California.


• Slideshow:
• CDCR Conservation Camp Program Website:
• Camp Directory:
• View State of Emergency Proclamation:

Paul Verke
(916) 445-4950
Rae Stewart, Camps Liaison
(916) 324-2758