Cali Calamity: California is paying inmates $1 an hour to fight wildfires burning in places where people shouldn’t be building homes in the first place

“I see your hair is burning…Your hills are filled with fire…” – The Doors, LA Woman


So the reserve fireman’s group comes from the California prison system? And they get $1/hour? This is a great example of how messed up our society has become in some respects. Having prisoners clear away brush in the face of massive wildfires to protect McMansions that have no business being built on hills that catch on fire as part of the natural cycle is ludicrous.

These hills are supposed to burn. They are covered in dry tinder. Fire is part of how these hills renew themselves. Then put a bunch of people in the middle of this tinder and guess what? Inferno.

(From CNBC)

The program dates back to 1915, when the CDCR first established labor camps that forced inmates to build highways and roads…

…According to the CDCR, the program saves the state between $90 and $100 million a year, though some critics fear that the financial benefits of cheap prison labor incentivize mass incarceration.

Many people don’t know that prison labor is an industry. Prison call centers are big business. At least here the effort is for the general good of the residents of California even if the problem is largely created by short sited policy. I suppose that’s better than having prisoners sell credit cards. (Which they do in some places.)

It needs to be noted again that much of the reason these houses are burning is because people have built in places they shouldn’t build. California in the summer is dry. The hills are grass and chaparral along the coast. Putting a neighborhood right in the middle of such an environment is going to create problems. Cali is where the desert meets the sea. The narrow band of non desert land makes for fantastic weather, dry and cooled by the Pacific. It is a “Mediterranean” climate. But because it is just barely not desert there is plenty of stuff to burn. Add ne’er-do-wells roaming the countryside and one can see that LA is a disaster just waiting to happen.

See that orange splotch in the south. That’s LA. It’s nearly desert. Of course it catches fire. Then add 15 million people.


It’s like the people who complain about losing their houses to hurricanes when they plop their giant “homes” on top of the protective dune systems because they want to have a view of the ocean. They are tempting fate and then we are supposed to bail them out because of their unwise (but incentivized) decisions. And we do bail them out. Remember, politicians often have nice homes in the hills or along the coast.