30-40% of California's forest fire fighters are state prison inmates, with roughly 4,000 felons on the front lines of active fires across the state. The inmate fire fighter camps have their origins in the prisoner roadwork camps that built many of the roads across remote parts of the state into the early 1900's.
Carlos Marin, an inmate at Growlersburg Conservation Camp, shaves his head for hygiene in down time between jobs at the camp.
Although weights have been banned across the California prison system, a special allowance is made for inmate firefighters to have proper gymnasium equipment, as firefighting demands an extremely high level of physical fitness.
Although there is a high level of cooperation amongst different ethnic groups when on the fire line when working as part of a team, some facilities at the prison itself, such as this "latino tv room" remain segregated in order to avoid racial tensions or violence.
Inmates at fire camps are allowed more recreation time and more freedom to interact without supervision when they are in down-time between fires, than they would have at a traditional prison.
A percentage of inmates must remain dressed, ready and on-call for fires at all times, throughout the day as they can be called on at any time by Cal Fire to assist on anything from a fire to a medical emergency.
In addition to earning "good-time" for fighting fires, prisoners also earn time credits which reduce their sentences by performing maintenance on the camp and working in the community.
Dominic Hernandez, a chef by trade, works off his 4-year prison sentence by running the prison kitchen, when he is not on the fire line, fighting fires.
Inmates are encouraged to finish studies while they are serving their time, and many spend their down time between fires working towards a GED, or trades and college courses.
The sole link with loved ones on the outside world at inmate firefighter camps are pay phones, as prisoners are not allowed to have cell phones or internet access.
Inmate firefighters line up to deploy for a day's work at Growlersburg Conservation Camp.
Antelope Conservation Camp firemen are led in formation by a Cal Fire captain during a 24 hour shift fighting fires in Sonoma, CA, during the devastating wine country fires.
Eduardo Amezcua, an Inmate firefighter from Antelope Conservation Camp mops up a hot spots during the wildfires that devastated large swaths of California's wine country in 2017.
Inmate firefighters from the Antelope fire crew take a breather while carrying gear off of a burning hill during the wine country fires.
The Antelope fire crew marches into action in Sonoma, CA during the wine country fires that devastated the region. Much of an inmate fire crew's work is done by cutting lines into burning brush with power tools so that water lines can then be brought in to put out fire.
Inmate firefighters Eduardo Amezcua puts out a hotspot while Jon Hooker (standing with chainsaw) looks on during the fires that devastated much of California's wine country.
Inmates work 24 hour shifts when on a fire, both day and night, often sleeping in the wilderness, before then getting 24 hours of down time before heading back to fight more fire.
Eduardo Amezcua, an inmate fireman, exhausted from fighting wildfire in Sonoma, Ca, takes a break on the side of a fire trail.
The sun peaks through smoke in the wilderness of Sonoma Ca as much of the area burned with wildfire.