Inmate fire crews help battle Slide Fire

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Slide Fire By Mike Gertzman Slide Fire By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX – Inmate fire crews are helping battle the Slide Fire burning in Oak Creek Canyon.

Seventy-two inmate firefighters and 12 Arizona Department of Corrections supervisors from prison complexes in Yuma, Florence, the Winslow Complex Apache unit in St. Johns and the main complex in Winslow have been dispatched to the wildfire.

The Wildland Fire Crew from ASPC-Lewis in Buckeye was dispatched to the Slide Fire late Wednesday afternoon.

The Slide Fire started Tuesday and has burned about 4,500 acres. Authorities have warned about 3,200 residents that they need to be ready to evacuate if the fire makes another advance.

Another group from the Arizona State Prison Complex-Winslow was sent to the Hunt Fire near St. Johns on Tuesday. That blaze was extinguished and the crew returned to their housing unit.

An inmate crew from the women's prison at Perryville was assigned to the Badger Fire, which started Tuesday near the Sunset Point Rest Area on Interstate 17 north of Phoenix.

The 100-acre fire was sparked by an RV that caught fire and quickly grew due to wind gusts and dry conditions. Those firefighters remain on site to assist in cleanup operations.

In addition, a firefighter crew from the Globe unit, which is part of the ASPC-Florence complex, was dispatched to battle the Woods Canyon Fire in the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest. The fire was reported at 10:15 a.m. Wednesday near Woods Canyon Lake. By 4 p.m., it had grown to 150 acres and crossed Forest Road 195.

Inmate fire crews consist of between 15 and 20 minimum custody inmates and DOC personnel who supervise and work alongside the inmates.

Crews are dispatched from prison complexes throughout Arizona and are assigned by the Arizona State Forestry Division.

"Inmate fire crews and their Corrections supervisors are dedicated and hardworking firefighters who perform a valuable service for Arizona," Corrections Director Charles Ryan said. "The state may experience a long and difficult wildfire season, and the Department of Corrections, as always, is prepared to respond."