“Breathing Fire” Profiles the Incarcerated Women on the Front Lines of California’s Wildfires

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Prisoners at Oak Glen Conservation Camp line up for work deployment under under the authority of Cal Fire, during which time they are called and treated as firefighters rather than inmates until they return to camp, on September 28, 2017 near Yucaipa, California. (DAVID MCNEW/AFP via Getty Images)

On the front lines of California’s raging wildfires, teams of incarcerated men and women work alongside free-world crews to stop our state’s increasingly dangerous forest fires.  They make a fraction of the pay to confront the same dangers and show the same bravery. In a new book, Breathing Fire, Jaime Lowe paints a deep portrait of one group of incarcerated women firefighters, delving into how they got to prison, the dangerous work they do to get themselves out, and what happens when the fires end, and they’re back out in the world. We’ll talk with Lowe and two of the firefighters she chronicles in the book about life, inside and out.



Jaime Lowe, author, "Breathing Fire: Female Inmate Firefighters on the Front Lines of California's Wildfires"

Sonya, former inmate firefighter, (2016-2018)

Jessica, former inmate firefighter (2014-17), CDCR