[w/ slideshow] Inmate fire crews help fight blazes near Ruidoso

Posted: June 13, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

N.M. Department of Corrections Secretary Gregg Marcantel (2nd from left w/ back to camera) speaks to an inmate fire crew helping with the Little Bear Fire near Ruidoso. (Photo courtesy N.M. Dept. of Corrections)

Among the men and women fighting the fires across the state are hot shot crews comprised of state prisoners.

[Scroll down for more photos]

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

Cristina Rodda

Public Affairs Director

New Mexico Corrections Department

Here are some more courtesy photos from the Department of Corrections:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

N.M. Department of Corrections Secretary Gregg Marcantel visited with an inmate fire crew helping with the Little Bear Fire near Ruidoso on Tuesday. The fire crew is from the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility (the minimum security unit) in Los Lunas.
  1. Sarah says:

    Why such a big fuss over firefighter inmates? They get free healthcare, dental, food and a roof over their heads so this should be expected in return for their free stay paid for by TAXPAYERS.
    I haven’t heard anything on the rest of the great man and women firefighters who put their lives in danger to protect the rest of us every day. Plus, the other great firefighters pay taxes like the rest of us. I’m tired of hearing the paper and the governor praising these people like if they are great heroes, taxpayers and model citizens.

  2. geoffgrammer says:

    Sarah, do you even read our paper? Mention of inmate fire crews has not even been in The New Mexican so I’m not sure what you mean when you write “I’m tired of hearing the paper and the governor praising these people like if they are great heroes, taxpayers and model citizens.” And in my post above, while the Governor is mentioned in the DOC email, she isn’t quoted saying anything so again I’m not sure where in “the paper” or in my crime blog you hear the governor praising these inmates.

    Again, this post hasn’t been in the paper at all so I’m guessing you were just looking for a reason to complain about this post and decided to throw the paper into your comment for good measure. I posted it here on this crime blog because they are convicted criminals. It sort of lines up with the theme of SantaFeCrime.com, wouldn’t you agree?

    And if you’ve read The New Mexican at all n the past several years you would know that it is a newspaper that probably devotes as many column inches to fire coverage year round than any newspaper anywhere with under 25,000 circulation resources. Staci Matlock in particular does extensive year-round fire and environmental coverage of the Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico areas. Two years ago an article I wrote on fire management won first place in news writing from the New Mexico Press Association.

    The men and women fighting these fires are unbelievably courageous and work their asses off more than anyone knows. Me posting some courtesy photos about inmates doing the same (yes, they’re working their asses off too) doesn’t mean in any way we ignore fire coverage.

    Thanks for your post on my crime blog, though.

    Geoff Grammer
    Digital News Editor, The New Mexican
    Twitter: @GeoffGrammer

  3. Richard V says:

    In light of the recent Corrections audit findings by the Legislative Finance Committee, I feel the inmate fire crew program is a fantastic rehabilitation program which deserves proper recognition.

    According to the legislative report by the LFC, 53 percent of released inmates return to prison within five years. This high percentage rate shines light on the recidivism problem in New Mexico and the need for stronger rehabilitation programs.

    Not only does the inmate fire crew program help rehabilitate these inmates through creating a “pro-social purpose,” but it also helps to preserve our beautiful state by putting more man power on the front lines of the horrible fires.

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