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California inmate caught after fire truck escape

By Marty Graham

SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - Police captured an inmate on Tuesday who had escaped from a San Diego-area prison by driving away in a yellow fire truck from the California correctional system's firefighting detail, authorities said.

Thomas Frances Kelley, 51, escaped on Sunday from Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility when he got into the truck and drove away, a spokesman for the prison said.

Kelley, who was sent to the prison in November for violating his parole on an auto theft conviction, had been assigned to the prison's firefighting force.

California relies on prison inmates who are deemed a low security threat to fight wildfires.

The fire truck was recovered at a San Diego-area convenience store 25 miles from the prison, and Kelley was arrested on Tuesday at a trolley station a few miles from the store, said the San Diego County Sheriff's Department.

Sheriff's deputies saw Kelley sitting on a wall at the station, and he admitted who he was and surrendered, said Sergeant Chris Steffen of the sheriff's department.

Prior to the escape, Kelley had been a model inmate, said California corrections department Lieutenant Patrick Logan, a spokesman for the San Diego-area prison.

(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Greg McCune)