22-Year-Old Woman Dies Fighting Malibu Fire

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Shawna Lynn Jones

A brush fire that began in the predawn hours on the morning of Thursday, Feb. 25, claimed the life of 22-year old Shawna Lynn Jones, an inmate firefighter who was struck in the head by a boulder at the scene of the fire.

Jones was volunteering as an inmate firefighter while serving time in Los Angeles County Jail. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) offers a program for inmates to join firefighting programs throughout the state, according to a CDCR statement. Jones joined the program in August of last year and was placed at the Malibu Camp, one of three all-female camps in the state.

“Her death is a tragic reminder of the danger that inmate firefighters face when they volunteer to confront fires to save homes and lives,” CDCR Secretary Scott Kernan said in a prepared statement. “On behalf of all of us in the department, I send my deepest condolences to her family.”

It is reported that Jones was struck by a boulder rolling down a hill and was airlifted to UCLA Medical Center.

“She was listed in critical condition with major head injuries,” the CDCR statement read. “Jones was removed from life support after her organs were donated, in keeping with her family’s wishes.”

Jones was the third inmate firefighter to be killed in the line of duty since the program was founded in 1943, and the first woman. Only five percent of inmate firefighters are females, housed in three camps across California. Men make up inmates in another 41 conservation camps.

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of inmate firefighter Shawna Jones, 22, who passed away after suffering a fatal injury from a falling boulder while fighting a brush fire in Malibu this past week,” a post on a Malibu Search and Rescue social media account stated Friday morning, announcing Jones’ death.

“The female inmate firefighters do a tremendous service for our community and their position is coveted and tremendously difficult to qualify for,” the post continued. “We hope she is remembered for her service to all.”

The brush fire began before 3 a.m. Thursday and burned 10 acres in Western Malibu near Mulholland Highway, north of Pacific Coast Highway, before being fully contained on Friday. There were no mandatory evacuations and by 7:15 a.m., forward progress of the fire had been halted.

“Right now we have stopped forward progress of the fire. There are still hot spots burning,” Inspector Wright of the Los Angeles County Fire Department told The Malibu Times at 7:15 a.m. Thursday morning. At that point, the fire was 35 percent contained.

At peak firefighting, early on Thursday and throughout the morning, about 200 firefighters from the containment camp, Los Angeles County Fire, Ventura County Fire and Los Angeles Fire were battling the blaze.

The fire had Mulholland Highway closed between Little Sycamore Canyon Road and PCH all day Thursday.

“We started getting 911 calls at 2:55 this morning about a brush fire at Mulholland and PCH in Malibu,” Wright said. “Engines showed up to see smoke and fire that was burning rapidly uphill.”

Speaking to The Malibu Times at about 12:50 p.m. Thursday, Wright described what containment meant.

“We stopped forward progress of the fire [earlier this morning],” Wright said. Now, personnel are “digging roads” and “scratching down to the earth,” encircling the burned area.

“If anything were to flair up, it couldn’t get out of that box,” Wright said.

The fire was fully contained Friday.

Funeral arrangements for Jones were still being finalized as The Malibu Times went to print.