Of the thousands of firefighters who battle California's blazes every year, roughly 30 percent of the on-the-ground crews are inmates earning a dollar an hour—and about 200 of them are women. Jaime Lowe takes readers inside the women's fire-camp operations, narrating deeply personal histories and the emotional and physical intensity of firefighting.
... an immersive, comprehensive look at Jones’ life and the lives of other incarcerated firefighters, as well as California’s history of inmate firefighting and its growing reliance on it ... Lowe vividly paints the realities of present-day firefighting. Her precise descriptions of sensory details...and firefighting and inmate lingo make readers feel as if they’re in camp with the women, jumping out of bunks at the 3 a.m. siren and piling into a buggy to race off toward a roaring wildfire ... Breathing Fire doesn’t shy away from complicated truths.
... remarkable ... Lowe writes with an affection for the women with whom she spent four years while writing Breathing Fire. As readers get to know Carla, Selena, Sonya, Marquet, Whitney and Alisha and the families who love and worry over them, she brings into sharp relief how an entire class of people are performing labor under conditions approaching complete enslavement. Her important book also points to the uncomfortable truth that the front lines of the fight against climate change are peopled with those society has forgotten.
The California penal system allows prisoners to train and form crews in the Conservation Camp program to fight the state’s all-too-frequent wildfires. Author Lowe spent more than five years in research and intimate interviews with a group of women who chose this path ... By telling this worthy story the author shows the need for reform that would let these women who risk their lives benefit more from the experience after prison.