An Arizona Department of Corrections van carrying a wildland fire inmate crew crashed south of Payson Monday afternoon.
The van was carrying eight inmates and one correctional officer when it rolled in the southbound lanes of Highway 87, 13 miles south of Payson around 3:30 p.m., said Cam Hunter, deputy state forester.
“The inmates are part of a specialized wildland firefighting crew and were returning to the Arizona State Prison Complex in Globe from fuels reduction work in the Pine area,” Hunter said. Two occupants were flown to Valley hospitals and six were driven to the Payson Regional Medical Center for treatment of injuries.
Through a collaborative agreement with the Arizona Department of Corrections, the State Forestry Division runs a dozen, 20-person inmate crews. Crew members are certified wildland firefighters and work year-round in Arizona on wildfires and wildfire mitigation, including forest-thinning projects, Hunter said. The Gila County Sheriff’s Office, Gila County detention, Department of Public Safety and Payson and Tonto Basin Fire Departments responded to the scene.