Inmate fire crews from Lake County have completed a weeklong fire safety effort to remove brush along three-quarters of a mile of roadways in Deer Park.

Inmate crews from Konocti fire camp in Lower Lake spent the week clearing both sides of a stretch of Deer Park and Sanitarium roads near St. Helena Hospital.

The inmates cleared brush and removed low-hanging branches, feeding everything into a Napa County-owned chipper.

The Napa Communities Firewise Foundation coordinated and sponsored the brush clearing. This was the Deer Park fire safe council’s first undertaking to promote fire safety in the community.  

Deer Park’s fire council was formed in 2012. About 40 residents met this fall to discuss the risks of wildfire and a long-term fire protection plan for the community, according to Napa Firewise. Napa Firewise chose the area partly to show the community the “before” and “after” of a vegetation management project in a high-visibility area. It’s a “first effort,” said Stephen Gort, vice president/treasurer for the Napa Firewise Foundation.

If the work had been done by a commercial contractor, it might have cost $97,000, Gort estimated.  

While the Deer Park project’s total costs were not available, Napa Firewise spent $225 per day to have the Konocti crews do the work, according to CalFire/Napa County Fire Capt. Amy Head.

Napa County also contributed to the wildfire mitigation project. Employees from the Public Works Department helped with traffic control and operated a cherry picker at no cost to Firewise, according to Napa Firewise representatives.

Napa Firewise, which operates on about $160,000 a year, according to Gort, spends about $75,000 a year on fuel reduction projects. Its funds come from Napa County and small donations from community members.

In October, Firewise received $100,000 from the Board of Supervisors for the fiscal year that ends June 30. In addition, the Napa County Fire Department contributes $50,000 annually for Firewise’s chipper program.

Jail inmates and a crew leader from Napa Firewise make their rounds with a chipping machine, turning limbs and underbrush into mulch at no cost to the residents. The crews in 2012-2013 served more than 650 properties in Napa County — or 35 more than the previous year — producing about 86,780 cubic yards of mulch, according to Napa County.

Firewise also receives grants and donations from the community. Community donations, most of them small, total about $15,000 a year, according to Gort.

(2) comments

Concerned resident
Concerned resident

Skeptic, This is work that otherwise would not be performed due to the high cost. The County does not contract this work out but rather does it themselves but they don't have the budget for it. My arborist's crews are booked into January and his comment on this project was that he was glad to see it done. He has hired laborers trained by this program. It's a good program!


the firewise project has, no doubt saved lives and a lot of property by trimming dead wood that can catch on fire. it sure is a better deal for the taxpayer when we can pay 27 cents an hour to prisoners who “volunteer ‘ to help us. it could even be seen as a “win win “ since prisoners may crave a view of the sky and enjoy seeing a tree for the first time in years ( think of that man who stole a slice of pizza in a local park and is now serving a life term , due to three strikes ), many would gladly work for free. it’s considered a privilege in prison to be able to join a work detail, even fighting fires. if only we could ignore those who are trying to make a living in the tree care business. their unemployment insurance is soon to run out. what about them ? what crime did they commit that they have to compete with slave labor from the state, in 5,000 different businesses ?

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.