Arizona inmates battle wildfires on the front lines

It's been an active wildfire season, and a few hundred wildfires have started since the start of the year.

Some of Arizona's prisoners have stood on the front lines battling the flames.

These inmates are used during wildfire season to help with suppression efforts and fuel mitigation, and they've been busy at work this year.

"We've had two Type 1 incidents, and it’s not even the middle of May yet," said Tiffany Davila with the Dept. of Forestry and Fire Management.

For decades the Department of Forestry and Fire Management has worked with the Department of Corrections to train inmates to be on the frontlines.

"Some of these folks are well versed in firefighting than others because that’s all they have to do is train," Davila said. "They are very appreciative of the fact that they get to do this type of thing."

There are 12 hand crews, each crew comprised of 20 members. Davila says having the inmates involved with wildfire efforts benefits them and it also saves taxpayers money.

"Fire suppression is noot cheap especially when we have to use large scale aircraft like the very large airtanker." said Davila. "That type of suppression when it’s needed is expensive, it’s extremely expensive. Fires can end up being a multimillion dollar incident."

This weekend, two wildland fire crews were sent to battle the Copper Canyon Fire burning near Globe, and more were deployed recently.

"All and all, I’d say about 5 crews have gone out so far over the course of a few days, and of course we really hope to get them out more this summer," Davila said. "We’re always appreciative of the fact when we can use them, because some of these men and women are some of the hardest working firefighters in the industry."

Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill into law a few months ago that will employ 700 more state inmates for wildfire mitigation work starting July 1.

More Arizona news

For the latest local news, download the FOX 10 News app.

Tune in to FOX 10 Phoenix for the latest news: