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Posts Tagged ‘firefighting’

Henri Guérard, Destruction du quartier “amandier” par le feu. Gelatin silver print from the 1970s-1980s. 1958.

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historicaltimes:

The “Gallows” fire prevention sign in Manning Park, British Columbia. 1947 From Vancouver archives. A prop cigarette shown being hung in attempt to prevent forest fires.

via reddit

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“Beaver Creek Camp Inmates Team With Local Firefighters,” Federal Corrections. Volume 2 – No. 10 – August-September, 1962. p. 7.

Inmates of the Beaver Creek Correctional Camp recently joined forces with the Gravenhurst Fire Department in quelling an imaginary blaze as part of a combined practice exercise.

Commenting on the exercise, Camp Superintendent D. J. Halfhide said it was most successful, and demonstrated that the combined fire-fighting services could cope with a major fire if one should occur.

“The exercise showed that in less than seven minutes we can have maximum attack methods in operation,” he said. “Our men can have equipment concentrat,ed on a blaze in about two minutes, and the Gravenhurst fire department can be on the scene to join them about five minutes later.”

The designated Beaver Creek crew consisted of four inmates plus a stand-by group, and in two minutes and 40 seconds this crew had water playing on a building which had been designated as being “on fire” when the siren was sounded. This included mustering the crew, laying two lines of hose, and starting the fire pump.

Seven minutes after the alarm was sounded, the Gravenhurst Fire Department arrived. They hooked up the fire truck, started the booster pump, and were pumping water at 200 pounds pressure in a further four minutes.

Superintendent Halfhide said the men from Beaver Creek, with local assistance, are becoming proficient in fighting fires of two varieties. Fire Chief Roy Mathias of Gravenhurst is helping to instruct them in methods of fighting building fires; while George Elliott, chief ranger at High Falls Lands and Forests office, has worked with them in forest firefighting techniques. The crew has helped to put out bush fires throughout the Muskoka region.

Camp inmates hold weekly practices under the direction of the camp’s works officer, Ken Knister, using water lines from a storage reservoir on the camp grounds.

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“Wildfires
have been raging ferociously in California this year. According to
meteorologist Craig Clements at San Jose University, wildfires have also
been much larger than usual. Fire seasons typically run from May to
November in northern California, Napa Valley and Sonoma counties. In the
summer, 100-degree temperatures dry out the grass, and droughts add to
the problem.

In 2017, fires in California were the deadliest since
the beginning of record keeping, with 100,000 people forced to evacuate
and around 75,000 displaced when their homes and businesses were
destroyed. It took more than 11,000 firefighters to battle those blazes.

Officially,
at least 35 to 40 percent of Cal Fire, the state’s firefighting force,
are prison inmate crews, and the number may be even higher. ‘‘Any fire
you go on statewide, whether it be small or large, the inmate hand crews
make up anywhere from 50 to 80 percent of the total fire personnel,’’
says Lt. Keith Radey, a commander in charge of one of the inmate fire
camps.

About 4,000 inmates each week
fight wildfires alongside civilian firefighters. That number includes
approximately 250 women. There are 43 inmate firefighting camps. The
three camps for women were opened in 1983.

In the fires, women
wear either yellow or orange fire-retardant suits, helmets and
handkerchiefs to cover their mouths and necks. Each one carries 50 to 60
pounds of gear and equipment in her backpack, and some also carry
chainsaws. Crews of 14 people each fight on the front lines.

Firefighting
is dangerous, grinding work requiring endurance and includes injuries
and some deaths. Prison crews in California firefighting bring to mind
chain gangs without the chains.

Prison labor and fires

In 1946, the Conservation Camp Program began using
prison labor to fight deadly fires, under the joint supervision of the
Division of Forestry and the Department of Correction, and later under
the supervision of the California Department of Corrections and
Rehabilitation (CDCR).

Nowadays, California’s institutionalized
inmates make license plates, prison uniforms, office furniture for state
employees and anything else the prison may need. They usually earn
between 8 cents and 95 cents per hour.

But inmates in the forestry
program are paid more to fight fires. They can make up to $2.56 a day
in camp, plus $1 an hour when fighting fires, though during training
they may be paid nothing at all.

In comparison, full-time civilian firefighter salaries start around $40,000 yearly or $17 per hour minimum.

In
2014, when California courts took up the issue of overcrowded prisons,
the state attorney general’s office argued against shrinking the number
of inmates because prisoners were needed to fight fires. In 2015, Gov.
Jerry Brown agreed. Other states use prisoner firefighters, but not
nearly on the scale that California does.

Most California inmates
volunteer to fight fires. They must pass a fitness test, and then they
receive as little as three weeks’ training, compared to a three-year
apprenticeship for full-time civilian firefighters.

Prisoners
fighting fires are serving terms for nonviolent, low-level crimes, such
as drug or alcohol-related offenses. Volunteers have to earn the right
to be chosen for “rehabilitation work.” High risks are involved, but
they earn more money than in other prison jobs — in a less violent
atmosphere, in more physical space than a prison cell offers. The risks
are weighed against the same amount of time served inside a correctional
facility.

At-risk women prisoners
Women
prisoners interviewed have given a range of feelings about being in the
forestry program. At firefighters’ camp, they have woodworking areas,
softball fields and libraries. They enjoy being outdoors and having
barbecues with family visits. Children see their parents in a camp
environment rather than inside a restricted prison.

And women may
get to see their children on the outside sooner because their sentences
are reduced due to firefighting credit. For every day they are in a
camp, their sentence is reduced by one day. Some women provide this
labor for years. They resent the hardship and intense physical labor,
but say it is worth the risk.

Since women in the firefighting
camps are available 24 hours a day for work, they are considered a
“resource” for the state. California’s firefighting program saves
taxpayers close to $100 million each year, according to the CDCR. The
cost for housing each inmate in a prison facility is $76,000 a year, as
opposed to using them to fight blazes.

– Dolores Cox, “In battle for freedom, women inmates fight blazes In battle for freedom, women inmates fight blazes.” Workers World. July 29, 2018

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“Firemen Labor Under Difficulties,” Montreal Star. July 21, 1938. Page 03.

Ste. Genevieve volunteer firemen worked under difficulties last night when fire threatened the whole village after attacking two dwellings, a general store and several sheds and barns.

The upper picture shows a group of volunteers pouring water onto the smoking ruins.

In the lower picture Fire Chief Poirier and Fireman Brunet are attending to the makeshift pump. The Star photographer caught them as they stood knee-deep in water.

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“Fire-Fighting Apparatus of Former Days To Be Displayed,” Toronto Globe. June 30, 1934. Page 05.

“As its contribution to the city’s Centennial celebration, the Toronto Fire Department has been gathering together for some time past old firefighting apparatus which will be displayed in a parade. Specimen pieces of the old apparatus are pictured above, at the upper left being an early steam-driven pump which came into use about sixty years ago, and with improvement, continued to be used until 1927, when steam was superseded by the gasoline-driven pumps. Standing beside it is Fireman William Fleming, who had charge of the last ‘steamer’ of the T.F.D. in Portland Street Hall in 1922. At the upper right are displayed the new and old in nozzles or ‘branches’ as the fireman term them. The one at the right is from a hand-drawn and operated pump of 100 years ago, whcih was equipped with a hand-made hose of rivetted leather. It had a capacity of about fifty gallons a minute, as contrasted with the modern one at the left, whcih easily spouts three hundred gallons a minute under high pressure. Below is a four-wheel horse-drawn hose reel of about 1850, which carried 500 feet of hose, with a crew of five men. This type of wagon being used up till about 1880.”

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“Inmates Make Effective Use
of Fire Fighting Training,” Federal Corrections.  Volume 2 — No. 3. June-July, 1962

Provision of training for correctional camp inmates
in forest fire fighting techniques paid off recently
in the Bracebridge, Ontario, area, when an inmate
fire-fighting crew from Beaver Creek Correctional
Camp was able to effectively assist Ontario Lands and
Forest Department personnel in bringing a local bush
fire under control. 

The practical proof of the value of this training
came on June 16, when the camp’s Officer K. Knister
received a telephone call from the Forest Ranger’s
office at Bracebridge requesting assistance in extinguishing
a local bush fire. 

Mr. Knister selected four inmates who had successfully completed a fire-fighting course conducted
earlier at the camp, and went with them to the Santa’s
Village area. After receiving instructions, the officer
and four inmates fought the fire for approximately
seven hours alongside one employee of the Department
of Lands and Forests and two civilians, using equipment
provided by the Provincial Government.

For their labour, the inmates were paid by the
Provincial Government at $1.00 per hour. Their
cheques were received by the Accountant at Collin’s
Bay Penitentiary, the Camp’s parent institution, and
deposited in the inmates’ Trust Fund Accounts. 

In recognition of their efforts, Chief Ranger Elliott.
later telephoned Camp Superintendent D.J. Halfhide
to express the Department’s appreciation. Ranger
Elliott congratulated Supt. Halfhide on the inmates’
behaviour, and on the skill they showed in organizing
and in fighting the fire. He made particular mention
(if their use of fire hoes. and their knowledge of the
correct use of fire-fighting hand tools.

   

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