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Sierra Conservation Center inmate dies during first day of firefighter training


A Moreno Valley man incarcerated at the Sierra Conservation Camp prison in Jamestown and employed on his first day as an inmate firefighter died Saturday morning after a training hike near the prison.

Anthony Colacino, 33, who had been incarcerated at SCC since June 2017, participated in a training hike with a California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation fire captain and four other inmate firefighters about 7 a.m. Saturday on a hill less than a mile outside the secure perimeter of the prison.

Colacino collapsed about 7:50 a.m. near the end of the hike. The on-duty fire captain contacted emergency

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A Moreno Valley man incarcerated at the Sierra Conservation Camp prison in Jamestown and employed on his first day as an inmate firefighter died Saturday morning after a training hike near the prison.

Anthony Colacino, 33, who had been incarcerated at SCC since June 2017, participated in a training hike with a California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation fire captain and four other inmate firefighters about 7 a.m. Saturday on a hill less than a mile outside the secure perimeter of the prison.

Colacino collapsed about 7:50 a.m. near the end of the hike. The on-duty fire captain contacted emergency resources while the inmate firefighters attempted to resuscitate Colacino in a transport vehicle back to the firehouse, which is about a quarter-mile away from the prison.

After the arrival of outside emergency responders, Colacino was pronounced dead at 8:41 a.m.

CDCR Public Information Officer Krissi Khokhobashvili said a cause of death is not yet available, but foul play is not suspected.

Khokhobashvili declined to speculate on the outcome of the autopsy report and cited an ongoing investigation into the cause of his death.

The Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office and the investigative services unit of CDCR were conducting an internal investigation by interviewing inmates and learning about Colacino’s activity before his death, she said.

The California Office of the Inspector General, the oversight agency for CDCR, will decide to “investigate as they deem appropriate,” she said.

Colacino was the only new inmate firefighter on the team participating in the hike, Khokhobashvili said. The hikes generally don’t take more than an hour, and the group was near the end of the hike when Colacino collapsed.

All inmate firefighters must receive a medical clearance by internal CDCR medical staff for “vigorous duty,” she explained, which Colacino had completed.

SCC Public Information Officer Lt. Robert Kelsey said the inmate firefighters were “handpicked” and were required to have no pre-existing medical conditions.

The medical clearance is comparable to a physical, he said, and involves a blood test, a doctor’s screening, and for inmates to self-identify any potential issues.

“As long as they don’t have anything that raised a red flag,” they are cleared for vigorous duty, he said.

All inmate firefighters must also be on a minimum-security level, have not committed a sexual offense or arson for their incarceration, and demonstrated non-violent behavior while incarcerated, Khokhobashvili said.

All the other inmate firefighters on the hike at the time were “experienced inmates” and used their emergency skills to attempt life-saving measures on Colacino when he collapsed.

“Those inmate firefighters, they put their training into action immediately,” she said. “It’s tragic but I do think it's important to say that we are proud of the inmates who helped out.”
Colacino was transferred to the custody of CDCR on Feb. 26, 2017, from Riverside County to serve four years and four months on two counts of evading a peace officer while driving recklessly, cruelty to animals, and discharging a firearm with gross negligence, a CDCR press release stated.

Colacino had been expected to make parole in July 2019.

Khokhobashvili said Colacinoa was first housed at Wasco State Prison in Kern County during the “reception center process” to identify his program needs and security before being transferred to SCC.

In August 2014, the Press Enterprise in Riverside County reported that Colacino shot a dog during a domestic dispute at his home in Moreno Valley and led Riverside County Sheriff’s deputies on a 45-minute chase in a black 2011 Cadillac before he was apprehended.

Colacino was reportedly convinced to surrender to deputies after being called on his cell phone by law enforcement. He had abandoned the wounded dog in an area outside Moreno Valley.

In 2017, Moreno pleaded guilty to the charges before receiving a four year, four month sentence, with six months credit for time already served.

Sierra Conservation Center houses about 4,200 inmates, and is one of two state prisons responsible for training inmates in the Conservation Camp program, the CDCR press release stated.

Approximately 3,500 inmates are housed in the camps as inmate firefighters.

Contact Giuseppe Ricapito at (209) 588-4526 or gricapito@uniondemocrat.com. Follow him on Twitter @gsepinsonora.