MCD Breathing Fire: Female Inmate Firefighters on the Front Lines of California's Wildfires
MCD Breathing Fire: Female Inmate Firefighters on the Front Lines of California's Wildfires

Breathing Fire: Female Inmate Firefighters on the Front Lines of California's Wildfires

By Jaime Lowe

$27.00

Publication Date: July 27, 2021

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A dramatic, revelatory account of the female inmate firefighters who battle California wildfires.

Shawna was overcome by the claustrophobia, the heat, the smoke, the fire, all just down the canyon and up the ravine. She was feeling the adrenaline, but also the terror of doing something for the first time. She knew how to run with a backpack; they had trained her physically. But that’s not training for flames. That’s not live fire.

California’s fire season gets hotter, longer, and more extreme every year — fire season is now year-round. Of the thousands of firefighters who battle California’s blazes every year, roughly 30 percent of the on-the-ground wildland crews are inmates earning a dollar an hour. Approximately 200 of those firefighters are women serving on all-female crews.

In Breathing Fire, Jaime Lowe expands on her revelatory work for The New York Times Magazine. She has spent years getting to know dozens of women who have participated in the fire camp program and spoken to captains, family and friends, correctional officers, and camp commanders. The result is a rare, illuminating look at how the fire camps actually operate — a story that encompasses California’s underlying catastrophes of climate change, economic disparity, and historical injustice, but also draws on deeply personal histories, relationships, desires, frustrations, and the emotional and physical intensity of firefighting.

Lowe’s reporting is a groundbreaking investigation of the prison system, and an intimate portrayal of the women of California’s Correctional Camps who put their lives on the line, while imprisoned, to save a state in peril.

About the Author

Jaime Lowe is a frequent contributor to The New York Times Magazine and other national publications, and has appeared regularly on This American Life, RadioLab, and NPR. She is the author of Mental and Digging for Dirt and has taught writing at Wallkill Correctional Facility. Born and raised in California, she lives in New York City.

Format: Hardcover with dust jacket

Length: 320 pages

Publisher: MCD

Publication Date: July 27, 2021

ISBN: 9780374116187

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