Former New Mexico Inmates Form Wildland Firefighting Company
A group of former inmates at Los Lunas prison in New Mexico have formed a wildland firefighting company, using the training and experience they gained while they were incarcerated.
“Lawrence Jaramillo and Joshua Melendrez became qualified as wildland firefighters and chain saw operators while serving time,” Wildfire Today reports. “After they spent three years in prison the two of them formed a private company, All Around Forestry LLC.”
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The company received its business licence in November, and last month its six employees completed their biggest job so far, thinning dog hair thickets, removing some large trees, and generally reducing hazardous fuels around structures at a camp in the Jemez Mountains.
“The cool thing about it is that every single one of our employees with us are wildland fire certified as well,” Melendrez said. “We all have done the program,” and “went on fires and fought fires with each other for quite some time now. We all have the knowledge of what needs to be done, and to do it thoroughly as well.”
“They’ve been doing an amazing amount of work, they’ve gotten an amazing amount done,” Ponderosa Christian Camp board director Craig Mathews told local radio station KOAT. “We hope this is just a springboard for them, and that they’re very successful in the projects they get awarded in the future.”
We did wrong in the past but that’s not us anymore. We’ve changed our lives completely,” Melendrez added. “A lot of people are happy and proud to see, I guess, a success story. We owe a lot of it to [the state’s Inmate Workers Camp program], but it’s also our own mindset to be better for ourselves.”