The fires this time

Now that fire season is here and Butte County has gotten its first taste of what threatens to be a blazer of a summer, the value of having an inmate fire camp in the Magalia Fire Center is becoming increasingly evident.

It’s easy to forget that some 18,000 people live above Paradise. That’s a lot of houses hidden in the pines. Fire on the Upper Ridge is a disaster waiting to happen. When it does, as it surely will, residents will be happy there are 110 trained inmate firefighters in their midst able to help put it out.

This is a case of weighing possible risks against potential benefits. The history of inmate fire camps indicates their inhabitants pose little or no risk. The history of fire in the Sierra Nevada indicates that flames are a huge risk every summer. Having an inmate fire camp close by is a huge benefit.

We applaud the state Division of Forestry for making a good-faith effort to gauge the sentiments of the community, but it’s time to move forward with the camp. The sooner those firefighters are in place, the better.