The Invaluable Work of California’s Inmate Firefighters | The Daily Show

The Invaluable Work of California’s Inmate Firefighters | The Daily Show

Wildfires. As the climate changes
and the land becomes drier, they’re becoming
an even bigger problem, burning down seven million acres in the United States each year. Which is terrible,
because without forests, Don, Jr. would have nowhere
to sit. Now, although wildfires
have recently been on the rise, these blazes have been
a major issue in America for a very long time,
so much so, that the U.S. Forest Service
even created a hero devoted to stopping the fires,
Smokey Bear. You have so many reasons
to protect your forest. Hey, kids.
I’m Smokey Bear. Remember, only you can prevent
forest fires. ♪ My friends depend on me ♪ ♪ Smokey B, to voice a plea. ♪ Buzz, what’s up, man? You left some leaves
burning out here. So the next time
you’re in the forest, be extra careful. Okay? (chuckles)
If you knew it was me, would you have listened? (screaming) What the (bleep) was that? Forget fires. I’m never
gonna be able to trust a beautiful woman ever again. “Say, Trevor, want to go back
to my place?” “Get the hell out of here,
you bear! I’m not falling
for your tricks.” But, yes, for decades, America has tried everything
to prevent wildfires. And in California, they’ve gone way beyond
talking bears. We’re finally learning
some good news about the wildfires
in California. Most of the fires
still considered active are either well under control
or almost out thanks to the thousands
of firefighters who have been battling
the flames alongside hundreds of inmates. You see all the firefighters
in orange? Those are California inmates. The state
has been using prisoners to fight fires
since World War II. Yeah. That is really,
really interesting. Inmates in California
can volunteer to help put out fires that
have gotten out of control. And I-I think it’s great
that these prisoners are willing to help
in a time of need. And just for extra motivation,
I think they should be allowed to bring their squad from prison to hype them up as they fight
the fire, you know. Yeah, they can just be standing
in the back like, “Yo, get his ass, T-bone. “Extinguish this bitch. “Remove either oxygen,
fuel or heat. That’s what you do
to stop a fire.” Now, you would think
any prisoner volunteering for a dangerous job like this would be in it
for some big reward. But it turns out,
that’s not the case. TV REPORTER:
Inmate firefighters get paid an average of two dollars
a day. When they’re battling
live fires, they earn an additional
one dollar per hour. Though they only earn
about a dollar per hour to risk their lives, every day of work
as an inmate firefighter counts as two days
toward their sentence. Wait, hold up. Inmates get two days
off their sentence for every day
they fight the fire? That’s not much of a reduction. Like, if I was an inmate,
I’d just want to keep the fire going. Yeah. (laughter) I’ll just be out there like,
“Oh, no. “I accidentally turned my hose to the ‘spread fire’ setting
again. Oh, darn.” (laughter) And, also, I, like… I don’t care
if they’re prisoners. Getting a few dollars a day
to fight a wildfire is bullshit. Now, while the prisoners
are getting basically nothing for doing a dangerous job,
the state of California saves an estimated
$100 million a year by using inmates
to fight the fires. And what’s extra messed up is that despite fighting fires
year after year while in prison, many of these inmates
aren’t allowed to use any
of that firefighting experience once they’ve served their time. NEWSWOMAN:
Despite their experience, an inmate firefighter
may find it tough to land a full-time job after they complete
their sentence. (reading): When they leave that service,
they are told they will never, ever be allowed to be a firefighter. Okay, you got to admit,
that’s just shitty. You fight fires in prison,
but then when you’re released, you’re not allowed
to do it professionally? So, basically, if you’re
an ex-con walking around and you see a fire, what? You have to commit a crime
before they’ll let you help? Just like, “Oh, no,
that orphanage is on fire. Quick, help me rob this bank!” So the question is
should prison firefighters be allowed to enter the noble
profession of firefighting after they’ve served their time? Well, to give us
some expert perspective, we’re joined by the most noble
firefighter of all. Smokey the Bear, everybody. (cheering and applause) Smokey… where do you stand on the issue of ex-cons working
as firefighters? First of all, Trevor, thanks for inviting a bear
onto your show. #DiversityMatters. And secondly, I believe ex-cons
could make great firefighters. And I’m a living example. Wait, are-are you saying
that you’re an ex-convict? That’s right. Shout-out to my boys
in San Quentin. Stay hard, my brothers. Wait, wait,
what were you in jail for? In the ’90s,
I ran a Ponzi scheme that preyed on the elderly. But I didn’t know right
from wrong. I was doing a lot of blow. Damn, that is hard-core.
I-I thought it would be for something like
stealing honey or something. Wow, Trevor.
Just ’cause I’m a bear, you assume I steal honey? Do I look like Winnie the Pooh? That’s racist. Oh, no, no, I… No, I didn’t… I didn’t mean, um,
to offend you. -I’m sorry. I’m sorry.
-Okay, I forgive you. See, that’s what
this country’s all about: giving people second chances. That’s why anyone who wants to
fight fires should be able to. Except for people who won’t
put out their campfires. Those people should have their
dicks ripped off by a bear. But not me. I’m still on parole! Wow, that’s, uh, pretty extreme. Not as extreme
as discriminating against people who’ve paid their debt
to society. Ex-convicts should be able
to train as firefighters. And that’s why
I’m changing my slogan to “Remember,
only you and cell block ‘D’ can prevent forest fires.” Well, thank you so much
for joining us. Smokey the Bear, everyone.


  1. Californians: "Those other states using prisoners for labor are making them into slaves! It's slave labor!"
    Camera looks behind them to inmate firefighters
    Californians: "No, no, look at me, don't look back there. Nothing to see back there."

  2. Per the 13th amendment. Abolishment of slavery, EXCEPT punishment of a crime. Then comes the rise of mass incarceration. I've said this for years. Notice how people just say the first half . You work for nickels an hour to keep it from being actual slavery, but it actually is.

  3. Lets create a automated solution when a fire starts. I am talking drones dropping balls of water or something similar. Drones to monitor with IR sensors as well. Lets save the world from fires.

  4. Give me a break you bleeding heart fool. These people are given the opportunity to do something other than rot in their cell and they can reduce their sentence while doing it. I find it somewhat typical though…this is the type of selective outrage that comes from those with your views. Oh and lets not forget about your outrage regarding ex-cons not being given a chance to work with REAL heroes and save lives after they do their time. Try finding something that's an actual crisis. Good grief.

  5. Wow. It's almost like the state is incentivized to keep recidivism rates high so that they can use Americans for cheap slave labor.

  6. That’s nice! Didn’t the California governor take fire fighting and land management funding to support IDs, licenses, and free medical for illegals? Gotta take care of future voters, right. Let them BURN!

  7. A firefighter is a position of trust. Can the men be trusted? If they can be trusted and are honorable men, I would agree with all of you, but if it's just because they did the work they can apply to a position of trust, I don't subscribe to that.

  8. The SMART meters are being used to burn down peoples homes to the ground.
    SMART stands for Secret Militarized Armaments in Residential Technology.
    The toxic bunker fuel and poison chem trails that our government is spraying us like bugs with are also used to increase the temperatures of the man made fires and to block the rain from falling in California
    Watch aplanetruth 4u, neverlosetruth 2 kafka, Mike Morales Above Ground World News and a other peoples you tube channels that are telling the truth about the man made fires and floods being used to destroy America.
    RFB had a good video on yesterday from an Air Force veteran Kristen Meghan that everyone should watch and learn from.
    Logic Before Authority, The Fullerton Informer and many other channels are well worth watching if you want to know the truth of what is happening in America and the rest of the world.

  9. How about actually providing some rehabilitation for inmates. So we can have lives after we pay our debt to society. But no, the system is set up so you will become a recidivist. They would be able to teach you how to stay out but there is zero actual rehabilitation thathappens. You go to prison and learn how to be violent as fuck, that's it. Not to mention prison "work" is literally slave labor. Your forced by gun point to work if your in prison. I've been there, it isnt fun. No one is doing the jobs the choose or doing it for less than 25cents an hour or nothing at all.

  10. Stand up people because next they will use inmates in Amazon warehouses, and policeman will have the authority to pull you over for looking at them funny.

  11. Firefighting inmates are encouraged to keep working off their sentence by putting their lives in danger. Wtf. Private prisons make money off of them. WHAT THE EFF?! Andrew Yang wants to get rid of private prisons and redo the incentives. We dont want lifetime criminals. We want rehabilitated humans! #Yang2020

  12. You ppl are so full of shit, the moment you become a victim you want the offender to burn on a stake… you privileged hipocritical fucks.

  13. If they allowed it then nearly all of the firefighters eventually would come from that path. They want to abuse prisoners, not create legacies.

  14. These people are being exposed to trauma and harsh conditions for 1-2 dollars? Then after they won’t even be able to become a firefighter after?? The morals in this country are absolutely flipped!

  15. Look. I get it, "They are a criminal, so if I hire them, they'll(insert crime here) again". You know, Prisons are SUPPOSED to be about not only punishing, but reforming. I would rather them be able to use their abilities to work and rebuild their lives. I don't know about you, but I'd like the idea of giving them the tools to turn things around, than throw them out to the dogs with a mark and end up re-offending, because what else can be done.

  16. All of you talking about this being good option for inmates to get jobs after. Well in fact they do. The Juvenile system has a program that will allow them to become a firefighters, they are housed at the Pine Grove facility in CA. The youth that murdered my daughter and shot another person 2 days before that will have the opportunity to be in this program. Yes a murderer who has no remorse and continues to be involved with his gang inside the juvenile detention facility released back into society mascaraing as local hero firefighter. Give some thought to the fact that my daughter gets no second chance nor do I, her sisters, her friends all that loved her we get no second chance…guess the murderer is all that matters to you people.

  17. ooo the poor criminal … i killed a family of 3 but the govern is the bad …. nice . You can do what you wan't but you pay the price …

  18. Modern Day slavery. I'm a slave I just know it. Prisons filled with mostly Blacks & Hispanics interesting sounds like slavery to me whether your in prison or out of it still slavery from red lining to school to prison pipeline you oppress slaves so they never rise but make them think they are included. Deception only the DEVIL does that & when I kill you you have to forgive your slave master was beaten into so called blacks & Hispanics forced to do what they do as a slave now we stuck its called destruction. Integration was one of the worse things to ever happen to us at least we stuck together when all we had was each other now we so destroyed a black man can't even recognize his own brother that he's killing. & with the deception this country still says slavery is over lies. This country is going to get what's coming to it.

  19. Sadly, reason is lacking in that department. Most societies punish people for life. We're all about punishment, not rehabilitation. Some places actually put in the effort, but we are not one, for many reasons. One, your actions define you (usually), just as your race and sex and religion define you, and nothing you say or do will change that identity for most people; we're programmed to be tribal that way. Two, there's a lot of money to be made by not giving people a legitimate second chance (helping convicts learn to be productive and good members of society, and then giving them the chance to be once they do their time), and a lot of money to be saved by underpaying them, but the chance that your organization's image will suffer because of the past of the employees. And this isn't even considering the crappy and overloaded system we have that makes it hard for the poor to get good or even adequate representation, or the plethora of other issue inherent to that system. We just don't believe in second chances like we claim to.

  20. How to avoid wildfires in California? Live in a world where a man from Missouri isn't encouraged by Trump's viciousness to go to California and start a fire. (Freddie Owen Graham, the Reservoir Fire, 20Sep2019. )

  21. Yes they get paid little but it costs a lot to pay for them in prison, an avg of 30-40 k plus they get a sentence reduced.

    At the same time they should be able to become fire fighters after if they wish to do so. Clearly they were good for job when in prison and should qualify after, that’s just messed up. They paid their debt!

  22. So are you want8ng to commute sentences? NO!!! Crimes were still committed and for the criers saying. "These pooor criminals reoffend because EMPLOYERS and THE NEIGHBORS in the NEIGHBORHOODS in which you would want these criminals to live in have the right to demand knowledge of an individuals passed….its sooooo wrong!" Screw you criers, advocates, whiners and pissbags.YOU invite convicts into your home. YOU reform them. Stop expecting so much out of Society. For society itself is made up of People…Good or Bad.

  23. Smokey bear is an ecoterrorist. Fires like this are caused by a lack of nutrients and water due to smaller plants like shrubs that grew and weeds. This makes it so it is more common to see fires like these and more fuel is available to the fire, causing it to no longer and stronger.

  24. I read one time that 1 in 3 young black men will spend some time in jail. Then we wonder why more aren't legally employed. ?

  25. Non-violent offenders should be allowed to become firefighters professionally after serving time as an inmate firefighter.

  26. They should be allowed to get EMT training in prison for free while they are in the program at the very least. The laws should also be changed to allow them to be able to get a job afterwards. They can make special provisions for the inmates that fought the fires.

  27. You know, I'm pretty sure I'm a minority in this thread but I don't get it. You feel bad for people in prison? They are in prison for a reason. You feel bad for rapists, murderers, thieves etc? Are you kidding? Can you imagine being a rape victim being told that the person who hurt you is getting off early because he was nice and kept to himself on jail? That's bullshit. What about a person who took the life of someone you love. You're NEVER getting that person back. They'll never see the next generation of the family, no weddings, no reunions no anything but yet the murderer DESERVES a better life. I'm sorry but this world is screwed up! American prison is too laid back in my opinion.

  28. prison labor is an abhorrent scheme that exploits people and keeps them in a subjugated state. it could be an empowering and rehabilitative approach to crime, but not on those wages and not when they are forbidden from using these life-saving skills outside prison.

  29. As someone who live near where the carr fire was, I am so appreciative that inmates did this. I was extremely pissed when I learned avout this from a cal fire volunteer. I think they should help those that fought fires get into the program for certification if they want to. And they should get paid like anyone else to do it in jail.

  30. The prisons is a money making machine that rely on inmates to return to the system, why else would they not grant a chance or change the rules once these guys have served their time….keep your feet on their necks all the way to the bank.

  31. Make special forest firefighters unit where EMT's work not part of this job.
    So some convict wouldn't be medic's , picking the pocket of heart attack patients they're treating .
    Need more creative policy makers.
    If some professions were not so hard to get into many people wouldn't have turned to crime.
    In California you need a special certification for lots of thinks but some just to collect public money.

  32. I remember living in Marin Co CA til last Dec. Inmates from San Quentin rescued people in trouble on a small boat on SF bay in the AM one night

  33. So where supposed to teach the inmates how to stand on their feet after they served their time. But when they get out and find a new passion, the people in charge say, no no choose something else, you know something that doesn't involve helping others. Screw that non sense. Being a paramedic myself, first responders are short staffed. Let them work a job that not many are willing to do.

  34. When we had the fire in Napa, people of Napa were told not to talk to inmate fire fighters nor were they allowed to take refreshments citizens brought. I heard people being yelled at for thanking them.

  35. They can be firefighters. Not all systems have combined fire+EMT. There’s good reason to be skeptical of past criminal history for medics. There is a pile of strong narcotics sitting in ambulances and you have to trust the medics to not use or sell that.

  36. I'd say that whether or not a convicted felon should be allowed to become a firefighter, after he or she has served their sentence, depends on what crimes they committed.
    Firefighters interact with children a lot; so I'd say that no one who has been convicted of rape, or child-molestation (or attempted rape or child-molestation), should be allowed to become a firefighter.

  37. "Wildfires. As the climate changes and the land becomes drier…"
    Sounds dire. Perhaps we should aspire to avoid this briar, even if it means we retire some of the power we desire.

  38. I think he means state owned slaves or at the least indentured people. Especially in CA. the guv has run wild. The "penal" systems war on the family/drugs is absolutely evil.

  39. But what about dealing with the trees the Australians sold California that keep setting themselves on fire which constantly ignite more forest fires perpetually worsening the issues

  40. This guy is always making fun of everyone in our country. Why don't you get the fuck out of here if you dont like us. Fag boy

  41. I was on a fire where there were 25 inmates from San Quentin prison. One thing I found, it was smart for me to get out of their way. They were a professional fire fighting crew who would start walking and at a walking pace would leave a path to the ground in back of them. They had stories…Whew….. They also had some sharp knives which were very handy to cut the meat that was delivered via parachute to our fire location. Bottom line I was impressed.

  42. My parents met while they were fighting fires while incarcerated. My dad was spitting game to my momz when he should have been doing back burns.

  43. It would have been so cool if at the end of the interview with Smokey, it was Desi Lydic in the costume, and she pulls the head off, freaking Trevor out XD. Or they would "forgot" to stop rolling, and then Desi takes the head off. Missed opportunity, oh well 🙂

  44. You know "Madame Battlefield" Democrats do like their SLAVES, and California is Democrat Country.
    They also like their Epic Fail Forestry Policies?

  45. Trevor, I love this show, I'm 30 now and I've been watching it since I was 12 and my dad was still around. There are more than enough willing civilians who are ready to participate in fighting CA wildfires, but the process for getting hired as a firefighter in CA is rigorous and ruthless. Even for a perfectly law abiding "clean" candidate, it can take upwards of 10 YEARS to land a job, if they keep at it. My dad was a Captain for LACoFD. I have been a paramedic in a high volume "ghetto" 911 system as a primary ALS provider for most of my professional career. It is still extraordinarily difficult for someone with my credentials to obtain a fire job. I no longer have a desire to do so but have seen a lot of my peers go through hell trying. I support a lot of what you're saying on this show but please do some research before you cry about some criminals not being able to get a job. By the way we work for 15 bucks an hour as paramedics who come and save your ass at 0300h. Not even close to an acceptable livable wage. If you want a sob story… interview private ambulance medics in southern california; treated like dogs, running 911 for 24-72 hours straight, no breaks, no sleep, with IFTs at all hours while trying to take care of a city of a quarter million. I doubt you've ever stayed awake for 3 days and had to deliver cardiac meds through an EJ or IO or dealt with sever multi-system trauma at hour 60 but it's way harder than working at Trader Joe's or McDona'ds, which is the wage we're compared to. I know you won't read this or pay any attention to it, but I just gotta get our two cents in. Military advantage is one thing, prisoner hand crew advantage is totally different. It's all well and good that these guys get some time outside of a cell and directly repay their debt to society for the work they do, but for someone who has never touched an illegals substance in their life with the conscious thought of wanting a fire service job to be disadvantaged when going up against someone who has had the opportunity to cut line for personal gain without ever running a call is not fair. Again, nobody's gonna listen but I'll be there to keep your heart beating at 3am and that's a majority of what the job entails. Peace.

  46. In America we have an issue with continue punishment after one has served their sentence. Makes you wonder if they just want you to go back to a life of crime.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *