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Breathing Fire: Female Inmate Firefighters on the Front Lines of California's Wildfires

Breathing Fire: Female Inmate Firefighters on the Front Lines of California's Wildfires

by Jaime Lowe
Breathing Fire: Female Inmate Firefighters on the Front Lines of California's Wildfires

Breathing Fire: Female Inmate Firefighters on the Front Lines of California's Wildfires

by Jaime Lowe

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Overview

A dramatic, revelatory account of the female inmate firefighters who battle California wildfires.

Shawna was overcome by the claustrophobia, the heat, the smoke, the fire, all just down the canyon and up the ravine. She was feeling the adrenaline, but also the terror of doing something for the first time. She knew how to run with a backpack; they had trained her physically. But that’s not training for flames. That’s not live fire.

California’s fire season gets hotter, longer, and more extreme every year — fire season is now year-round. Of the thousands of firefighters who battle California’s blazes every year, roughly 30 percent of the on-the-ground wildland crews are inmates earning a dollar an hour. Approximately 200 of those firefighters are women serving on all-female crews.

In Breathing Fire, Jaime Lowe expands on her revelatory work for The New York Times Magazine. She has spent years getting to know dozens of women who have participated in the fire camp program and spoken to captains, family and friends, correctional officers, and camp commanders. The result is a rare, illuminating look at how the fire camps actually operate — a story that encompasses California’s underlying catastrophes of climate change, economic disparity, and historical injustice, but also draws on deeply personal histories, relationships, desires, frustrations, and the emotional and physical intensity of firefighting.

Lowe’s reporting is a groundbreaking investigation of the prison system, and an intimate portrayal of the women of California’s Correctional Camps who put their lives on the line, while imprisoned, to save a state in peril.



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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780374721923
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date: 07/27/2021
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: eBook
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 422,207
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Jaime Lowe is the author of Mental, a memoir about lithium and bipolar disorder, and Digging for Dirt: The Life and Death of ODB, a biography of Ol' Dirty Bastard, a founding member of the Wu-Tang Clan. She is a frequent contributor to the New York Times magazine and other national and international publications. Lowe has contributed to This American Life and Radiolab, and has been featured on NPR and WNYC numerous times.

Table of Contents

Map xi

Part I Shawna Lynn Jones and the Women of Crew 13-3

1 The Mulholland Fire, February 25, 2016 3

2 The Aftermath 28

3 Malibu Conservation Camp #13, Four Months Later 49

Part II "The Girls in Oranges Hiking the Mountain"

4 The Trap: Lancaster, Antelope Valley 79

5 Lynwood, The Largest Women's Jail Facility in the United States 90

6 California Institution for Women, Firefighting Training 100

7 The Conservation Camps: Puerta La Cruz #14 and Rainbow #2 120

Part III The Golden State of Incarceration

8 Inmate Labor: San Quentin to the Pacific Coast Highway 147

9 Carla: Chowghilla to Childbirth 160

10 Selena: CRS Crazy Riders to First Saw 175

11 The Sand Fire and the Detwiler Fire 183

12 CDCR Health Care, A.K.A. "Cruel and Unusual Punishment" 189

Part IV Release

13 Alisha: On Trial 199

14 Sonya: Life on Parole 216

15 Marquet: Prep Work to Pulpit to Fire School 224

16 Whitney: The Hotshot 232

17 The Firefighters 252

Epilogue 277

A Note On Sources 285

Acknowledgments 289

Index 293

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