MALIBU – Funeral services are pending for an inmate firefighter who was killed when a boulder rolled off a 100-foot cliff and hit her head, while she was battling a brush fire Thursday north of Malibu.
Funeral services for Shawna Lynn Jones, 22, of Lancaster, were expected to be finalized this week.
Family members said Jones had been sent to L.A. county jail for either drug or fraud charges, and had volunteered for firefighter duty. In years past, only state prison inmates who had exhibited good behavior were put in the highly coveted camp crew rosters, but a diminished number of state inmates has prompted firefighters to take in prisoners serving in county jails.
Jones apparently met the criteria, and then joined Fire Camp 13, on Encinal Canyon Road above Malibu, last August. Family members told Los Angeles television reporters that the Jones was behind bars and had missed her father’s funeral when he died of cancer in October.
Jones was the third inmate firefighter to die on a fire line since California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s firefighting program began in 1943.
The state trains inmate firefighters each summer in Tehama County, north of Sacramento, and teaches them safety, physical conditioning and firefighting techniques. It was not immediately disclosed if Jones went through that training, which includes a 4.2 mile hike in full firefighting gear, with a 75 minute deadline.
More than 4,000 inmate firefighters are stationed across California. Two men have been killed on fire lines in the past 70 years, and Jones was the first woman inmate firefighter to lose her life in a wildfire.
The roughly 10-acre brush fire started along Mulholland Highway, on an isolated and twisting section of the road four miles uphill from Pacific Coast Highway.
It was ignited for some reason about a mile from the nearest structures, the Camp ALC Shalom. That is about a mile west of the landmark trio of gigantic white satellite dishes that are visible from state Highway 23, south of Thousand Oaks.
The fire was reported at 2:56 a.m. Thursday, Feb 25. About 200 firefighters were sent to the extremely steep slope, and worked with shovels, awls and axes — in the dark, in heavy smoke, on loose rocks and in strong, erratic winds.
Pilots using night-vision goggles, from Los Angeles and Ventura counties, were able to douse flareups, and the camp crews and staff firefighters on the ground had stopped its forward progress, and contained the blaze to less than 10 acres.
Crews were still working on burning stumps and branches at about 7:15 that morning, when the rock fell about 100 feet from a rocky outcrop that had been singed by flames. Jones was airlifted to the UCLA Medical Center, and her mother made the call to donate her organs to transplant patients and remove her from life support.