A prisoner participating in fighting a forest fire in Redding, California in July. Photo: AFP.

California is the state that suffers the largest wildfires and is also home to the largest prison population in the United States.

In August, a wildfire in Mendocino County, northern California destroyed 146 homes and was then considered the worst wildfire in the state’s history.

Prisoners participating in firefighting are part of a volunteer firefighting program launched by the California Department of Human Rehabilitation and Community Reintegration (CDCR).

`Each prisoner volunteer is individually evaluated to participate in the program. They must be non-violent, even if convicted of a violent crime,` said CDCR representative Vicky Waters.

Prisoner volunteers live in camps near natural forests.

California pays prisoners $1 per hour to fight wildfires

Prisoners of Oak Glen Camp went on a mission to fight forest fires.

The program began in 1915, when CDCR first established labor camps to force prisoners to build roads and highways.

According to CDCR, the program has saved the state an estimated $90-100 million per year, although some critics worry that the financial benefits of cheap prison labor encourage mass incarceration.

However, CDCR asserts that the program helps the state and prisoners.

Although the program helps prisoners reduce recidivism and improve their skills, these prisoners cannot become professional firefighters after leaving prison.

Many people also criticize these types of programs for putting prisoners at risk.

`When prisoners volunteer, we must absolutely ensure that they perform their duties freely and voluntarily,` said David Fathi, director of the ACLU National Prison Project.

California pays prisoners $1 per hour to fight wildfires

Americans sobbed as they drove amid the California forest fires

The American cried and prayed to God as he drove through the flames.

Huyen Le