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Fire Department abandons plan to house inmate firefighters at Malibu station

The Los County Angeles Fire Department has scrapped a plan to use a fire station in Malibu as a temporary location to house inmate firefighters displaced by the massive Station fire.

Faced with opposition from local residents, Los Angeles County Fire Chief P. Michael Freeman informed the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in a letter that his staff would be looking elsewhere.

Freeman did not specify why fire officials backed away from the proposal. But Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said transforming the fire camp, now a workplace for 30 firefighters and staff, into housing for inmates did not make sense near a residential area.

"While these fire crews perform an important public safety service, housing them in or adjacent to a residential neighborhood defies common sense," Yaroslavsky wrote in an e-mail to neighbors.

Residents said they understood the risks of living in a fire danger zone but felt endangered by the possibility of having 80 inmate firefighters living at a fire station that would also be turned into low-security inmate housing.

“Overall, it feels like a significant and lighting-fast score for community activism,”  said Joshua Malina, an actor and resident. “As soon as the information came in, we rallied with a very focused group effort to defeat this proposal.”

But not everyone was pleased.

Georgia Goldfarb, a physician who also lives in Malibu, said she was behind fire officials examining having additional firefighting personnel in the area given the fire risks, but she quickly grew disappointed when she learned the proposal was abandoned so quickly. 

“They are not only excellent crews during a fire but work to reduce the threat through brush-clearance projects,” Goldfarb said of the inmate firefighters. “I assume this is in response to residents who feared something from these well-vetted and experienced crews. That is troubling. Can we not even have a dialogue based on information and not on unfounded fears?”

The rugged Malibu hills, where north-south-running canyons funnel Santa Ana winds through the mountains toward the Pacific Ocean, has been the site of many of Los Angeles County's most disastrous fires that in recent decades has destroyed hundreds of homes and charred tens of thousands of acres.

County fire and state corrections officials operate five fire camps in Acton, Saugus and the San Gabriel Mountains, as well as Decker Canyon in Malibu, which is home to female inmate fire crews at Camp 13. The fifth was located on Mt. Gleason until it was destroyed in the Station fire.

Last week, fire and corrections officials began to explore the possibility of beefing up personnel in the area with inmate firefighters who had been displaced from Camp 16.

--Andrew Blankstein

 
Comments () | Archives (7)

We too are in favor of having more fire crews at Fire Camp 8, but housing inmates and allowing visitors of convicted felons that will pass schools and parks on the way to a prison set in the middle of a residential neighborhood does defy logic. I would bet anyone in favor does not have young children living in their home. We support the program, just not any location near neighborhoods.

If not using Camp 8 is a choice now why not consider using old Camp 18 up near Chilao? It is another great site.

I can understand their reasoning, being in a neighborhood area. Not a good idea.

Thank you for keeping our beloved 30 firefighters staff in camp 8. These guys have been our neighbors for many years they are our friends and our heroes in numerous times, it would have been sad to see them leave to be replaced by the inmates with whom we could have never have a personal relationship with all the respect and appreciation of what they can do for us, they remain prisoners and should not be kept in the middle of a family community.

Bravo Supervisor Yaroslavsky! You made the correct decision. Some people -- largely those who don't live in the area -- tried to paint this as a case of rich people who want inmates to fight their fires as long as they don't live among them. But the reality is that the inmate crews DO NOT fight fires. They help with brush suppression and clean-up. These are vital services, but as you said there is no reason to house convicted felons in family neighborhoods. It hasn't happened before, and thanks to you Supervisor, a dangerous precedent has been avoided. I am neither rich, nor aloof, but I am grateful!

Yes, we also say thank you Supervisor for taking Camp 8 out of consideration for the prison. A prison, for any kind of inmate, should never be in any highly populated neighborhood ANYWHERE! It doesn't matter where the neighborhood is. We rallied as a community and are very happy with the decision.
Thank you!

“Overall, it feels like a significant and lighting-fast score for community activism,” said Joshua Malina, an actor and resident. “As soon as the information came in, we rallied with a very focused group effort to defeat this proposal.”

So during the summer when your houses are on fire, inmates are good enough to put their lives on the line to save your homes? I think your a bunch self serving idiots. Inmates are not required to help fight your yearly blaze but every year thousands are out there side by side with CDF. It would appear they are good enough to be in your town then.

I would suggest you people get out more and stop being minions of CNN and fear mongering your ideas onto your children, every inmate has not raped a nun or murdered the local citizen. the sky is not falling.

"We too are in favor of having more fire crews at Fire Camp 8, but housing inmates and allowing visitors of convicted felons that will pass schools and parks on the way to a prison set in the middle of a residential neighborhood does defy logic"

Ah yes, we can't have visitors driving through eating at our restraunts, staying in our hotels, shopping our local businesses, Cause omg, felons have families, and they must be felons too... you are a moron.


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