Oakland firefighter starts book drive for inmate fire crews

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- This year, firefighters have been on the front lines of some of the biggest wildfires in state history.

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Among those risking their lives - 4,300 California inmates.

"We tend to do different types of operations but everyone is running the same risk the whole time," said Patrick Shaw, who is a seasonal firefighter with Cal Fire.

While battling the NorCal fires this summer he heard complaints from inmates about their book selection being rather small.

That gave Shaw the idea to launch the Prison Fire Project - a book drive for inmate firefighters. Through the month of December, he's been collecting books for the 43 inmate fire camps across the state.

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The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation says low-risk inmates volunteer their time which can help reduce sentence time.

So far, More than half a dozen Oakland businesses have opened their doors as book drop-off site, including Black Spring Coffee Company. "People have not been bringing stacks, they've been bringing boxes," said owner, Ryan Stark. "It's just been really remarkable."

Donations have been overwhelming.

Aside from the book drive, there will be a benefit concert Wednesday at Oakland's Starline Social Club to help fund the project.

Shaw says he'll personally deliver the books to the camps this spring, right before the start of the next fire season.

Click here to learn more about the Prison Book Project.

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