Back of the bus brawl has racial overtones
Two inmate firefighting crews were pulled away during the height of the wind-driven wildfires that flared across Southern California this fall, after a "riot" broke out on their bus, according to documents obtained Friday.
White and Hispanic inmates began fighting in the back of a crew bus while they were supposed to be fighting the Poomacha fire in San Diego County, according to reports obtained by the Associated Press. Other inmates had to be separated after they moved to join the fight, the reports said.
The Poomacha fire burned nearly 50,000 acres near Highway 76 near Pauma Valley, destroying 217 homes and other buildings. It was one of more than a dozen fires driven by Santa Ana winds that burned 800 square miles and destroyed 2,196 homes.
"San Diego Sheriff's spokeswoman Jan Caldwell confirmed that deputies were called to the scene by fire captains to maintain order until more prison guards could arrive. The reports say about 10 deputies kept the two racial groups separated after the fighting stopped.
"It's very rare that there are any kind of incidents among fire crew inmates," said Seth Unger, spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. "The benefits of this program far outweigh the very few small incidents like this one, which was controlled very quickly."