The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Breathing Fire:
Female Inmate Firefighters on the Front Lines of California’s Wildfires
by Jaime Lowe, 2021

Sep 27, 2021

This book tells the story of ten women inmate firefighters in California, over roughly the last ten years. It includes the ravages of COVID in prisons, the protests against the murder of George Floyd, and the ever increasingly ferocious fire seasons. The author relies on interviews with dozens of inmates and their families. She provides extensive research into the factors that shape them: the history of mass incarceration, and the three-strikes law, and the use of inmate labor as essential forced unpaid labor to fight fires and floods and to build roads. She talks about the obstacles that are raised to prevent them from getting jobs that use their skills after release from prison.

The book is a stark example of the dire circumstances of essential workers and honors their heroism and courage fighting on all fronts, against all odds.