Unlike their counterparts behind bars up and down the state, the female inmates who live in an obscure North County town called Rainbow get chances to see real rainbows in the backcountry. Not to mention trees, birds, snakes, scorpions — and fire.

Their work to prevent wildfires is a trade-off for the women of Rainbow Conservation Camp. Yes, the food is better and they get to go outside. But they have to work hard and face intense risks when fires begin.

“It’s a good trade,” one inmate tells us. “A lot of people wish they could be here instead” of regular prison.

In a new story, we spend time with these inmates (some of whom just went to fight Yosemite’s mammoth Rim Fire) and learn how prisoners land in fire crews in the first place.

• Inmates have long served on fire crews here, and they’ve long faced danger. In 1956, as we wrote in a recent history flashback, seven honor camp inmates, three other firefighters and a prison guard were killed in a local backcountry wildfire. It remains one of the deadlist wildfires for firefighters in U.S. history.

The Weekend in the Race for Mayor

• Nineteen people have filed the final paperwork necessary to be candidates for mayor. We’ll know by Wednesday how many of them have enough valid voter signatures to get on the ballot. If you’d like to see who’s still in the running to be in the running, click here.

The record, by the way, is 20 candidates, so this election won’t make history on that front.

• The U-T explores the divide in local labor circles between supporters of Democratic candidates Nathan Fletcher and David Alvarez.

• That paper’s ownership and the editorial board it controls were not big fans of Fletcher during last year’s mayoral campaign after he dumped the local GOP after it refused to endorse him. The paper’s dislike of him even became an issue.

Now, the U-T is at him again in a scathing new editorial titled “Fletcher vs. Fletcher vs. Fletcher,” accusing him of “slaloming” (fun word!) all over the political landscape.

New Central Library Dedication Nears

San Diego’s new downtown Central Library will officially open for business next Monday following a weekend of dedication celebrations. The U-T has an FAQ about the new library, timeline of the history of the San Diego Library system, and an exploration of why such an edifice is necessary in the age of Kindle.

• The new downtown library will have the same number of staffers (85 full time and about 65 part time) as the old central library.

And one more thing. If you borrowed material from the Central Library right before it closed for the summer to move across downtown, guess what: They want it back. It’s due.

Quick News Hits

• The mayor’s race was pretty quiet last week, giving other stories — including a few about the battle over the future of the Barrio Logan neighborhood — to make it into VOSD’s list of the Top 10 stories of the week.

• Gloria Johnson, a well-known local feminist and activist in the LGBT community has died. Interim Mayor Todd Gloria and others flooded social media with sad notes.

• Linda Johnson, a microbiologist who’s retiring, is just six months from Medicare. Will she be able to find affordable coverage under health care reform, which goes into full effect on Jan. 1? Second Opinion, our series of questions-and-answers about Obamacare, provides perspective on her options. Click here to read the story.

• Readers are chock full of opinions about my recent VOSD story examining the effects of ex-Mayor Filner’s renovation of Balboa Park.

At issue: Are the disabled being served? Are the parking trams sufficient? Was the Jacobs plan a great idea? Click here to check out the 50+ comments.

• We’ve got sad news about would-be mayoral candidate “Rock C. Viagra,” who — and this is true — signed up last week to run. The candidate really got a rise out of local wags, inspiring an epic round of jokes on Twitter.

Alas, Viagra didn’t file the final papers to actually run and won’t be on the ballot. RIP: Rest in Puns.

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego and vice president of the American Society of Journalists & Authors. Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.

Voice of San Diego is a nonprofit that depends on you, our readers. Please donate to keep the service strong. Click here to find out more about our supporters and how we operate independently.

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga

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