Inmates are no problem

Residents of the Upper Ridge area have expressed concern about a proposal to turn the former California Conservation Corps camp above Magalia into a seasonal firefighting station peopled by low-risk prison inmates. They worry about what might happen if one of these convicts walks away from the unfenced camp and note that there is a school located less than a mile away.

These worries are understandable, but they are misplaced. Not all prisoners are dangerous. The inmates of the Magalia camp would be minor, nonviolent offenders doing short time in a relatively comfortable environment. Their incentive would be to play it straight and go home. The history of such camps is that inmates almost never leave, and on the extremely rare occasions when they do, they quickly exit the area and head home.

There may be other reasons for not locating inmate fire crews at the site. The crews may not be sufficiently trained to do much good. There may be better places to put them from a firefighting standpoint. Public safety, however, is not an issue.