Two strike teams from Alder Camp in Klamath are currently assigned to the Carr Fire and the Mendocino Complex Fire, for as long as it takes.
Alder Camp Correctional Officer Keith Reitz said the teams have no return date but left a couple weeks ago en route to the fires.
He said the strike team on the Carr Fire is currently staying at a base camp in Redding.
“They have a full kitchen there, along with tents, laundry and showers,” Reitz said. “It’s like a little city there.”
The strike team working the Mendocino Complex is staying at Parlin Fork Camp with similar amenities.
A strike team is made up of two crews, typically of about 15 firefighters. Reitz said firefighters work the fires for 24 hours and are then given a 24-hour break before returning for their next 24-hour shift.
To be eligible to fight fires, an inmate must be in level one or two security, meet certain parole requirements and have no record of prior escape attempts. Conservation camp crews are trained at a facility in Susanville. Reitz said once paroled, those firefighters may go on to serve with local fire departments, HotShot fire teams, CAL FIRE or on seasonal fire teams. He estimated that about 10 percent of those inmates go on to work in fire suppression.
“We’ve seen some (former inmates) working on engine crews when we’re out fighting fires and we always say ‘hi’ to them,” he said. “It’s really great to see them out there making it.”
City Manager Eric Weir said no teams or firefighters from Crescent City have been assigned to the larger wildland fires. He said as fire resources have been stretched thin in recent weeks, causing local personnel to help other area agencies who may be sending out personnel.
“Last week, we sent two people to Klamath in case anything happened up there,” he said.
According to CAL FIRE reports Wednesday, the Carr Fire has burned 173,000 aces, but is 47 percent contained.
The Mendocino Complex, now said to be the largest in state history, has burned near 300,000 acres and is made up of two fires. The River Fire, burning west of Clear Lake, has burned 48,900 acres, but is considered 81 percent contained. The Ranch Fire, now burning into the Mendocino National Forest north of Clear Lake, has burned over 251,000 acres and is said to be 46 percent contained.
“Weather conditions will continue to challenge firefighters as hot, dry and windy conditions persist,” said a CAL Fire report Wednesday.