Inmate Firefighter Dies From Injuries Sustained in San Diego County

An inmate firefighter at work on the Bully Fire in Shasta County in 2014. (Adam Grossberg/KQED)

Updated 11 a.m. Tuesday:

An inmate firefighter who was helping battle a wildfire in San Diego County last week died Tuesday morning from injuries he received after accidentally cutting himself with a chainsaw on July 5.

The death of Frank Anaya, 22, marks the second death of a prisoner working a wildland blaze this year in California.

“We are saddened by the death of Frank Anaya, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends,” California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) Secretary Scott Kernan wrote in a press release. “Anaya provided an invaluable public service and helped protect our communities from devastating fires.”

On May 24, a 3,000-pound tree fell on a prisoner in Humboldt County, killing him. That inmate, Matthew Beck, was clearing brush near the community of Orleans in Six Rivers National Forest.

California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) is investigating Cal Fire and the CDCR in connection with that incident.

Last year, Shawna Lynn Jones was struck in the head by a falling boulder while helping work a fire in Malibu, becoming the first female inmate firefighter to die in state history.

Anaya was leading a crew in Lakeside on the afternoon of July 5, cutting brush to create a containment line, when he accidentally cut his right upper leg with a chainsaw.

Anaya was taken to a local hospital following the accident and underwent multiple surgeries, according to Bill Sessa, a spokesman for the CDCR.

The prisoner was serving time for corporal injury of a spouse, possession of an assault weapon and possession of a concealed weapon, Sessa said.

Sessa emphasized that an injury to an inmate firefighter is rare.

“Considering the danger that the firefighters are in, it’s amazing that we actually have very few firefighters who get hurt on the job,” Sessa said Friday.

The two recent accidents are isolated incidents, Sessa emphasized. “The safety record of this program is excellent,” he said.

The state relies heavily on prisoners during wildfire season. Inmates in the program receive $2 an hour when battling fires. Some of them get time off their sentences. The state estimates the program saves as much as $90 million a year.

This post was originally published on July 5.

Inmate Firefighter Dies From Injuries Sustained in San Diego County 11 July,2017Don Clyde


Don Clyde

Don Clyde is an online producer, reporter and copy editor for KQED News. Before venturing into journalism, he worked as a medical device engineer and scientist for nearly a decade after earning a degree in physics from UC Berkeley. He loves travel, reading, living in Oakland, and most importantly, a good walk. Email him at or follow him @clydedon.


Ted Goldberg

Ted Goldberg is the morning editor for KQED News. His beat areas include San Francisco politics, the city’s fire department and the Bay Area’s refineries.

Prior to joining KQED in 2014, Ted worked at CBS News and WCBS AM in New York and Bay City News and KCBS Radio in San Francisco. He graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio in 1998.

You can follow him at @TedrickG and reach him on email at

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