North Kern state prison inmates serve community while serving time by fighting fires

North Kern prison inmates train as firefighters

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -  

Summer is near and fire season is here. 
 
We've already had several fires this past week.
 
Which means we need all the help we can get. 
 
But you might be surprised where some of that help is coming from.
 
23 ABC's Christine Dinh tells us about some unlikely firefighters.
 
In the likely hood of a fire at North Kern state prison, there's no need to worry. A handful of inmates have it covered.
 
"This is our fire department we just utilize inmates as firefighters," said fire captain Darrell Stinnett. 
 
Stinnett said the inmates fight fires at the prison and neighboring Kern Valley state prison.
 
"Our main responses are with the city of Delano and McFarland on structure fires. We also go out on vehicle accidents. And we do wildland fires," said Stinnett.
 
The inmates assist in fighting fires anywhere within the county. But its not a job for any inmate.
 
"They can't have any violent offenses. No sexual crimes, no grand theft auto convictions," said Stinnett.
 
Only the most minimum risk inmates qualify.
 
"We're getting the cream of the crop as far as inmates go," said Stinnett.
 
Ronnie Doke said it's the best decision he's made since his incarceration.
 
"I wanted to do something that was life changing that would be worth my time instead of sitting there not doing anything. I wanted to pursue something that would be turning a negative into a positive and show people can change if given the opportunity," said Doke.
 
"It's a big turnaround in their personalities. You'd be surprised how minimum attention you give them puts inspiration in their eyes that they have a future. Not necessarily in the fire service but anywhere they go they have a future because of the training we give them," said Stinnett.
 
The inmates train to become certified firefighters so they can apply at fire departments once they are released from prison. They are also trained in first aid and CPR. 
 
Saving the lives of others and possibly their own.
 
"It has given me a lot of self worth and made me feel like when I leave here I have the possibility to never come back," said Doke.
 
 
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