- The Washington Times - Friday, August 30, 2013

Thousands of firefighters are on scene to battle the 300 square mile blaze at Yosemite National Park — including 673 prison inmates from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

“They are in the thick of it,” said Capt. Jorge Santana, of the prison.

The prison’s sent along 621 men and 52 women to help fight the Rim Fire. Even more have been sent out to fight in the various 20 other fires at spots around the state, NBC reported.

“They work 24-hour shifts,” Mr. Santana said. “They sleep in tents at base camp. They work side-by-side with other firefighters. They risk their lives.”

California’s program for felons dates back to 1946 and includes 4,100 volunteers from 42 of its minimum-security facilities. To prepare, inmates undergo two weeks of fitness training, including 9-minute mile-long runs and military-style calisthenics, NBC reported.

“We hiked straight up mountains with 45 pounds on our back, carrying tools and water and other necessities,” one inmate said, describing the training process in NBC.

Inmates are eligible to cut some time off their sentences for successful participation in the program.