California is once again grappling with a rash of wildfires, the pandemic has left the state with a deficit in a key tool against the flames: inmate firefighters. Due to outbreaks of COVID-19 in the state’s prison system, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection reports that it is working with half the usual number of inmate crews as it normally does during wildfire season, only 90 out of the typical 192.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation reports that roughly 12,000 prison inmates and guards have tested contracted the novel coronavirus since the outbreak began. While some inmates have been quarantined after testing positive for the virus, more are also being granted temporary releases in order to help stem the spread of the disease.

California has seen around 370 wildfires so far this season, with two dozens still being actively fought. Authorities report that around 350,000 acres have been consumed so far.

“Some of the toughest work that’s done out there on the lines, some of the most important work, is done by these hand crews,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said about inmate crews at a July press conference when their availability was even more limited.

Due to this deficit in inmate crews, Newsom has called on the National Guard and seasonal firefighters to lend their assistance in fighting the wildfires.

Prison work programs have often been criticized for exploiting inmate labor for minimal pay. The issue is even more dire for inmate firefighters, who experience deadly frontline conditions for only $2-5 a day, with an extra $1 a day when actively fighting a wildfire. These firefighters are also known to sleep in campgrounds by the thousands during the wildfire season, making social distancing during a pandemic a considerable predicament.