First Woman Inmate in State History Dies While Battling Wildfire

Inmate death
Photo courtesy: KTLA

MALIBU, CA – Shawna Lynn Jones, who died Friday after being struck by a falling boulder in Malibu, is the first woman inmate in state history to lose her life while battling a wildfire, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Corrections spokesman, Bill Sessa, told SUN News that Jones was taken by helicopter to UCLA Medical Center with major head injuries Thursday after she was hit by a rock that fell about 100 feet from the hillside above her.

Jones, who was from the Lancaster-Palmdale area, was serving a three-year prison sentence for repeatedly violating probation for a 2014 drug offense, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department jail records.

She was scheduled to be released April 10.

Sessa said that Jones was one of a crew of 14 other inmates, working under the direction of a fire captain from the LA County FD. The program has been running since 1943, with female volunteers joining the group in 1985. Jones is the third inmate firefighter to die on a fire line, but the first female, since the nation’s oldest and largest inmate firefighting program began.

Of the roughly 4,000 inmates housed in 44 conservation camps across the state, only 195 are women. Typically, inmate firefighters are armed with such tools as shovels and pickaxes, and focus on fire containment lines in often rugged terrain. Inmates operate in crews of about 14 under the direction of a fire captain.

Lt. Steve Jauch, PIO for the LA County Sheriff’s Dept, told SUN News that the rock was the size of a soccer ball, but the incident is still under investigation., and no further details about what caused the fire, other crews working above the victim, or what caused the rock to be dislodged, are available.

LA County FD Battalion Chief, Mackee told SUN News that no crews were working above Jones when the rock became dislodged.

We are still awaiting the outcome of an investigation on what caused the fire, or what caused the rock to be dislodged.