There are over 200 female prisoners fighting wildfires in California. They risk their lives to put out fires and dare what trained male firefighters would think twice before trying.
A large truck labeled with Cal Fire and Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) recently took these brave inmates to the Tubbs Fire in Calistoga to prove themselves with raging fire.
One of the outstanding female inmates firefighters is 22-year-old Soledad Espinoza. She has taken up residence in prison since she was 19 for several DUIs.
Espinoza will be released from prison in less than year. She is planning to apply the resiliency she has gained from firefighting while an inmate to other areas of her life after her release.
The Female Inmates Go Through Series of Physical Training and Then School to Qualify
“This place has given me confidence that I can do anything in life,” Espinoza said. “If I can do this, if I can climb a mountain with blisters on all of my toes, if I can go through some physical pain that I would have never thought I could possibly had been through… it gives me the belief that when I do get my freedom back, I can do anything. There is nothing that can stop me.”
To qualify for inclusion for firefighting as a prison inmate, Espinoza says they have to under series of fitness training. The physical training may last a couple of months.
And then they attend school for some time to understand the basics and rigors of firefighting. As soon as they graduate, they get sent off to train in camps where they physical strength is tested further.
“We Have Childbirth and We Go Through Extreme Pain,” They Said Proudly
Captain Brent Pascua drove the Rainbow Camp crew for over 12 hours to put out wildfire and reduce its onslaught. They worked all day to remove flammable materials and set up protective dust to reduce the passage of the raging fire.
Pascua has been working with the crew for three years in San Diego and credits the women inmates with a lot of hard work and doggedness.
“We are able to push ourselves to limits that not necessarily the males are capable of,” Espinoza explained. “We have childbirth and we go through extreme pain that you would never have thought we would survive. So, I think that helps us to push ourselves fighting a fire day in, day out.”
Espinoza narrated that the group hike long distances with 45 pounds of backpacks to fight the fire. She said they carry heavy coolers, chainsaws and gallons of water to quench the fire.
And why have they chosen to fight wildfires when they could have chosen to remain in their cells? Espinoza and others in her firefighting crew said they fight wildfires to attone for their past mistakes and to redeem their sense of worth.