Coronavirus Pandemic Sidelines California’s Inmate Firefighters


Last fall, Jason Dixon fought wildfires.

“Close enough to singe your beard hair,” he said, the day after he and his team of about a dozen inmate firefighters from Valley View Correctional Facility in Glenn County battled California’s wine country Kincade Fire last October. “Fighting the flames hand to hand.”

That day, 37-year-old Dixon made an aggressive stand to protect a neighborhood nestled in the golden foothills of Sonoma County. But for much of this summer, Dixon has been stuck at his fire camp, one of more than 40 located in rural parts of the state.

In late June, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials put 12 prison fire camps on lockdown after they were potentially exposed to the coronavirus through outbreaks within the prison system, sidelining as many as 750 inmate firefighters.

A few weeks later, the CDCR extended the quarantine at four of the camps — Dixon’s included — after he and other prisoners were potentially exposed to the virus again by a nurse team brought in to administer coronavirus tests.


By: Kevin StarkPublished: NPR

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