I got the chance to view the documentary Fireboys ahead of its release this week. This covered a story I had never heard of before, following the lives of the young men who are incarcerated in California, who have applied to the fire program that will take them out to battle the California wildfires. The film had a hopefulness to it, seeing the applicants push themselves to achieve their goals.
While not all of the young men prove they can take the pressure and structure, it feels like the program offers the ones who succeed a positive environment, and a sense of purpose only available within the program. One participant confides that it’s a huge morale boost to be looked at by community members as a firefighter and hero, instead of an inmate.
The young men get paid a measly wage, which goes to pay back whatever restitution they owe, but they seem for the most part to thrive in the program which feeds them well, and takes them out of the chaos of the prison walls.
The doc follows some of the young men as they have ended their prison sentences and are released into the world. While it was nice to see some of their tear-filled family reunions, it felt so hopeless for these men who had really just made mistakes as kids and will pay the price for decades. Many of them were hoping to go right into the work that they had just developed a love and skill for, but they find that they are prohibited because of their records to apply for several years. It feels like the program that gave them hope while they were in prison is now an unattainable dream that will have to wait. What will they do in the meantime? It’s unknown, and it’s heartbreaking. I wish there was a better solution for these kids who grow up in prison and truly hope for a better path upon release. But I was glad their story was told.
Fireboys is available on VOD and Digital tomorrow, on August 3, 2021.