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California Inmate Shift Could Hurt Firefighting Crews

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Inmate work crews from the California Correctional Facility battle a blaze in California. (credit: Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)

Inmate work crews from the California Correctional Facility battle a blaze in California. (credit: Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)

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SACRAMENTO (AP) — State officials say shifting California’s lower-level criminals to counties could strip a third of its inmate firefighters.

They told a legislative panel on Monday that unless counties agree to contract back with the state, the state could lose 1,500 of its nearly 4,500 inmate firefighters because of a realignment law that took effect Oct. 1.

California currently has nearly 200 fire crews but will have to cut back if the counties don’t supply enough of the less serious offenders who will be serving their sentences in county lockups.

The state is relying on counties to send inmates to state-run fire camps to keep them out of local jails but sheriffs say they can’t afford the $46 a day the state plans to charge.

The shortage could start in 2013.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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