Among the men and women fighting the fires across the state are hot shot crews comprised of state prisoners.
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The New Mexico Department of Corrections on Tuesday responded to an Associated Press inquiry about whether prison inmates were working on fires around the state, in particular the Little Bear Fire near Ruidoso that as of Tuesday night had destroyed more than 220 homes.
Here is what DOC Public Affairs Director Christina Rodda sent via email to the state’s media in response to the AP’s question:
New Mexico Corrections Department Secretary Gregg Marcantel just returned from the Northeast area of the burn line at the Little Bear Fire. The inmate fire crews were digging a fire line and mopping up hot spots. Secretary Marcantel conveyed the gratitude of the people of New Mexico and Governor Susana Martinez.
“Having had an opportunity to visit the inmate work crews their motivation and purpose is obvious. I conveyed the gratitude of the people of New Mexico and Governor Susana Martinez to each of the inmates and their crew chiefs,” said Secretary Gregg Marcantel.
There are two (12) man crews in Capitan, New Mexico, at the Little Bear Fire. The Fire Crews are from Central New Mexico Correctional Minimum Security Facility in Los Lunas.
Each crew is led by a New Mexico State Forestry Division Crew Supervisor and assisted by two New Mexico Corrections Department staff. The crews were deployed Saturday June 9th.
“While the Little Bear fire is tragic, it provides our firefighter inmates with a dangerous opportunity to realize a purpose greater than themselves and their personal desires. A chief aim of our rehabilitation efforts rest upon our work to move offenders away from pro-criminal thinking toward more pro-social behavior and attitudes. In a very real way, the fire burns in less vain as it creates pro-social purpose for people who may not have had such an opportunity otherwise,” added Secretary Marcantel.
This year the New Mexico Corrections Department has increased the number of trained firefighter inmates made available to serve our State this fire season and continues to collaborate with the New Mexico State Forestry Division to offer more inmate crews.
We changed the policy for inmates qualified to be on fire crews. Previously you had to be in Level One for (90) days prior to being in outside work detail. Now we allow for a combination of (90) days in level One and Level Two. The last (30) days must be in level One. We made the change to make it easier to get qualified inmates out on the front lines of protecting the State this fire season.
The NMCD is willing to establish fire crews at Roswell Correctional Center and Springer Correctional Center. We agreed to increase to seven crews.
The inmate crews are expected to return June 24th, depending on the needs of the Forestry Division.
This year CNMCF Inmate Fire crews deployed to:
- Bernardo Fire, February 9, 2012. 2 crews-24 inmates
- Pretty Bird Fire, April 25, 26, 27, 2012. 2 crews-24 inmates
- Alexis Fire, June 3,4,5, 2012. 2 crews-24 inmates
Public Affairs Director
New Mexico Corrections Department
Here are some more courtesy photos from the Department of Corrections: