Contributed File Photo: Members of a state prison wildland fire crew work on a previous fire. More than 100 inmates became members of the state’s first Arizona Healthy Forest Initiative crew after graduating from their training Wednesday.
PHOENIX – More than 100 Arizona inmates are graduated Wednesday after having completed training to become members of the first Arizona Healthy Forest Initiative crew. As part of this new program to combat wildfires, the inmates attended classroom and field training at the Fort Grant Unit at ASPC-Safford, where they learned how to manage hazardous vegetation across the state’s vast terrain. Learning these valuable skills will assist inmates to build better lives upon release.
“Wildfires pose a serious threat to Arizona communities every year,” said Governor Doug Ducey. “Our proactive Arizona Healthy Forest Initiative is a major step to help reduce wildfire risk and protect our communities.”
Last year, Governor Ducey signed legislation establishing the Arizona Healthy Forest Initiative. Through a partnership between the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation, and Reentry and the Department of Forestry and Fire Management, low-risk inmates are employed to clear forests of debris and help prevent wildfires.
“With today’s inaugural graduation of more than 100 inmates, we have reached an important milestone in establishing a crucial part of the Healthy Forest Initiative that will help mitigate wildfires across the state,” said ADCRR Director David Shinn. “I am grateful to Governor Doug Ducey and our partners at the Department of Forestry and Fire Management (DFFM) as we continue to work together on this historic initiative that will provide additional resources to reduce both wildfires and recidivism by offering meaningful job skills training for inmates to create successful employment opportunities upon release.”
The crew members begin their new jobs next week and will be working with machinery and equipment used in the forestry industry.
“The Healthy Forest Initiative is Governor Ducey and Arizona taking the lead on reducing fuels and lessening the impact of wildfires. The training of these crews is another example of Arizona stepping up to protect homes, communities, and our wildlands from the threat of fire. We are happy to have all of these trainees on board,” said DFFM Director David Tenney.
Currently, more than 194 inmates are participating in an existing ADCRR-DFFM program as Wildland Fire Crew members. The crews, deployed under the direction of DFFM and ADCRR staff, are all trained to be wildland firefighters.
To learn more about the Arizona Healthy Forest Initiative click here.