Female inmate firefighters featured in movie

Did anyone see “Firelight”, the TV movie Sunday night on ABC about inmates at an all-female correctional facility who become members of a wildland firefighting hand crew? I missed it, but Cuba Gooding played a counselor who talks a group of incarcerated women into applying for positions on an inmate hand crew. It is a “Hallmark Hall of Fame” movie and will replayed on the Hallmark channel April 29 at 8 p.m. ET, May 5 at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. ET, and May 6 at 4 p.m. ET.

Here is a 2-minute “behind the scenes” video about the movie:

The movie is based on the fact that there really are female inmate firefighting hand crews in California. The Rainbow Conservation Camp in San Diego County made history in 1983 when it converted from male to female and created female crews. Currently, in addition to Rainbow, the Puerta La Cruz Camp in San Diego County and the Ventura California Youth Authority Camp have women firefighters. There are a total of 197 inmate crews assigned to 41 camps in California.

CDC crew
Male inmate crew training in California

Adult inmates assigned to the firefighter camps are carefully screened and medically cleared. Only minimum custody inmates – both male and female – may participate in the Conservation Camps Program. To be eligible, they must be physically fit and have no history of violent crimes. The average sentence for adult inmates selected for camp is less than two years and the average time they will spend in camp is eight months. After being selected, inmates undergo a vigorous two-week physical fitness training program and are then provided training for another two weeks.

Apache 8, documentary about all-female fire crew

Apache 8 fire crew
Apache 8 crew on a fire. Image courtesy of Aurelia Tate.

Apache 8, a documentary about an all-female Native American wildland fire crew, is making the rounds of film festivals and public television stations. So far it is scheduled to be shown on television stations in New Hampshire, Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada. (UPDATE: it will air in South Dakota on Sunday, May 8th at 3pm central/2pm mountain time on the main channel, SDPB 1.)

Information from a fact sheet about the film:

Apache 8 tells the story of an all-women wildland firefighter crew from the White Mountain Apache Tribe, who have been fighting fires in Arizona and throughout the U.S., for over 30 years. The film delves into the challenging lives of these Native firefighters.

Four extraordinary women from different generations of the Apache 8 crew share their personal narratives with humor and tenderness. They speak of hardship and loss, family and community, and pride in being a firefighter from Fort Apache. Apache 8 weaves together a compelling tale of these remarkable firefighters, revealed for the first time.

To find out when it will be airing on your local PBS station, go to the “station finder” and click “change”. After entering your zip code click “next” a couple of times. If it is not scheduled, there is an email link at the station finder which you can use to ask them to show it. If you discover any airing dates that are not already listed above, let us know in a comment.

Here is a trailer for the film:

More information:

Thanks Dick

Loyola University Prof uses Thirtymile fire as evidence women should not be firefighters

A professor at Loyola University New Orleans has written a ridiculous article published by Psychology Today that uses the tragic Thirtymile fire that killed four wildland firefighters in 2001 as evidence that women should not be firefighters and that the concept of national forests is evil and an example of “socialized land ownership”.

The Thirtymile fire, even before this idiot from Loyola spewed forth this garbage, can provoke a very emotional response from wildland firefigters. Not only did we lose four firefighters (see the names below which include two women), but for the first time a wildland firefighter was charged with felonies for the deaths of people on his crew.

The Cantwell-Hastings law that passed in 2002 was a knee-jerk reaction to these deaths. It requires that every fatality of a U.S. Forest Service employee on a fire be investigated by the Department of Agriculture’s Inspector General’s office, a group of people more comfortable investigating fraud of subsidies at chicken ranches than analyzing wildland fire behavior, tactics, and strategy. Their mission is to determine if anyone should be charged with a crime, not to help identify lessons learned or prevent future fatalities.

Ellreese Daniels, the crew boss of those four firefighters, had been initially charged with 11 felonies, including four counts of manslaughter. The charges were reduced to two counts of making false statements to which Mr. Daniels pleaded guilty on August 20, 2008. He was sentenced to three years of probation and 90 days of work release.

So the idiot Loyola prof digs into these wounds which still seem fresh to firefighters and says women have no place on the fireline:

Nowadays, with our modern dispensations, we place females in the front lines. This is no less than an abomination. Females are far more precious than males. It is not for nothing that farmers keep a few bulls and hundreds of cows. It is due to patriarchy that we owe our very existence as a species. Imagine if our cave men ancestors had sent their women out to hunt and face the lions and tigers when they came a-calling, instead of throwing themselves at these enemies, sacrificing themselves so that mankind could persist.

Spoken like a cave man.

He goes on to say that fewer firefighters would die if we had no public ownership of lands:

When a forest fire consumes private timber, there are individuals who feel it in their bank accounts; this is not the case with socialized land holdings. This means that the incentives are greater, by how much is an empirical matter, for profit making individuals to take greater precautions regarding their property than is true for their public counterparts. If we have learned anything from the fall of the Soviet economic system – and this is a highly debatable point – it is that things work better under private ownership. These four young people will have not died totally in vain if we use their deaths as a rallying cry for privatization of the forest. Perhaps if we succeed in this effort, other lives will be saved.

Thirtymile fire memorial
Thirtymile fire memorial

The four firefighters killed on the Thirtymile fire were:

Tom L. Craven, 30, Ellensburg, WA;
Karen L. Fitzpatrick, 18, Yakima, WA;
Devin A. Weaver, 21, Yakima, WA;
Jessica L. Johnson, 19, Yakima, WA.

A memorial page for the firefighters can be found here. May they rest in peace.

Women in Fire, 24 Hours of Sunlight


Kelly Homstad has organized a team of three female wildland firefighters who will compete in a 24 hour endurance race, “24 Hours of Sunlight”. It will include hiking and skiing or snowshoeing up and down a mountain for the entire 24 hour period. It will take place at Sunlight Mountain Resort near Glenwood Springs Colorado February 23-24, 2008. They are looking for sponsors to subsidize some of the costs faced by their team members including the registration fee ($125 per racer), and also food, water and incidental expenses on race day.

Here is How Kelly describes the team:

“We are three gals with a passion for fire! I’m a Fire and Fuels Specialist, in Montrose, Colorado. I’ve been in fire for 5 years. The team captain, Faith Gall, is an Engine Foreman in Rifle, Colorado, going on 11 years in fire. Last, but definitely not least, is Jenna Beckerman, who is on the Craig Hotshots, in Craig, Colorado. Jenna has been in fire for 4 years. We believe this race will be a fun and challenging way to stay fit for next fire season.”

You can contact Kelly at karky_20@yahoo.com