The drought of 2012 is the worst since the 1950s. With so many scorched acres, wildfires have been steadily burning across the center of the country this summer.
Across the western U.S., wildfires are fought in part by prison inmates. This has been a busy year for these firefighters — in Wyoming, inmates have been dispatched more than 50 times to battle fires in all four corners of the state.
Daniel Ross began working as an inmate firefighter there in 2011. He is a former crystal meth addict who is currently serving time for aggravated assault against a police officer.
At StoryCorps, he remembered his first fire.
Click here for the transcript.
But when we go on the fires, people treat you different. Even if they do know you’re an inmate, alls they see is a hard working person that’s helping them. And it feels great.
Last year we got called to this town of Saratoga. And we worked for two weeks. And then, at the end of our stay, townspeople wanted to donate us a prime rib dinner. Now, we don’t get prime rib very much here in prison. And I’d noticed that these people that were waiting on us in this really fancy, beautiful restaurant, were like in plain-Jane clothes.
Well, right before we got our main course, the owners came up, and they said, "I want to introduce you guys to the people that volunteered to help wait on you tonight.”
And all these townspeople got up and gave their testimonies. And they said that we helped save their lives, you know. And I was just overwhelmed to see it in their eyes and to hear it in their voices.
It was so moving that I had to get up and go compose myself. And that was my proudest moment, hands down.