SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – California officials are considering allowing inmates with violent backgrounds to work outside prison walls fighting wildfires, and the idea is generating concerns about public safety.

The state has about 3,800 inmate firefighters with no history of violent crimes. But that’s down from about 4,400 in previous years, so prison officials are looking for ways to add inmates.

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Starting next year, the corrections department is proposing adding inmates convicted of violent offenses if their security classification level has been reduced after years of good behavior.

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Officials tell The Associated Press they also are seeking to allow inmates who have up to seven years left on their sentences instead of the current five.

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Arsonists, kidnappers, sex offenders, gang affiliates and those serving life sentences for murder and other crimes would still be excluded.