Inmates helping to fight Gladiator Fire - CBS 5 - KPHO

Inmates helping to fight Gladiator Fire

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There are about 100 inmates from prisons around Arizona helping to battle the Gladiator Fire near Crown King.

The crews are not only fighting the wildfire, they also are saving the state money.

CBS 5 News cameras caught up with one of the five inmate crews battling the fire. The members of these crews volunteer for the duty, but they do not receive any time off their sentences for it, according to prison officials.

The opportunity is only given to inmates who are low-risk offenders, but crews receive full federal training and are at the ready all wildfire season here in Arizona, the officials said.

For taxpayers, these crews are a bargain. Typically, first-year wildland firefighters get $12 an hour while the inmates only make $1 an hour.

Crew leaders said that even with the low pay the inmates are glad to get out to the fires and help.

"This, for them, is much better than being in the yard. It kind of gives them a break from being in the yard and it gives them the ability to give back," said Sgt. Sean Ryder of the Arizona Department of Corrections.

The payoff for the inmates might not be their paycheck, but they are receiving valuable wildland firefighting training. That means they will be able to apply for a regular position once they are released.

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