Calif. Inmate Firefighter Dies After Working Wildfire

A 44-year-old inmate who was scheduled for parole in October died after helping fight last week's Buck Fire near Sage, state officials announced Monday.

An autopsy will be performed to determine the exact cause of death of Jimmy Randolph, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said in a news release.

Randolph reported feeling ill the morning of Saturday, Aug. 18, and was taken to the hospital, the release said. He died at 12:30 p.m. the next day at Desert Regional Hospital in Palm Springs.

Randolph, a Los Angeles County resident, was sentenced in July 2005 to an eight-year term for petty theft with prior convictions. His family was at his bedside when he died, the news release said.

Statewide, almost 2,300 inmates are on fire crews that assist with fire-suppression and fire-prevention efforts. Those inmates provide about 3 million hours' worth of firefighting and other emergency efforts per year, according to a Department of Corrections factsheet.

Participants in the program, who must be minimum-security inmates, are medically cleared before starting, and go through a "vigorous" two-week physical fitness training program and a two-week course in fire safety and suppression techniques, the factsheet says.

Randolph was part of an inmate fire crew that was stationed at Fenner Canyon Conservation Camp, located in Valyermo, in the Mojave Desert. Fenner Canyon houses fewer than 150 prisoners and is designed to provide inmate fire crews to Los Angeles, Kern and San Bernardino counties, the release said.

Besides Randolph, there were five other injuries, including one man who had to be airlifted from the scene.

The Buck Fire was sparked by lightning Aug. 14 in the rural Sage area southeast of Hemet. It claimed four structures and burned nearly 2,700 acres. Cal Fire/Riverside County fire officials declared the fire completely under control at 8 a.m. Monday.

The fire also led to one man being arrested and booked on charges of interfering with a firefighter and assault with a deadly weapon.

Gregory Lance Good, 59, of Sage, drove his vehicle at a fire captain, running over his foot with the front tire, John Hall, a spokesman with the Riverside County district attorney's office, said Monday. The fire captain did not have to be taken to the hospital, Hall said.

Good was arrested Aug. 14 and is being held on $30,000 bond. He was arraigned Friday and pleaded not guilty to both charges.

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