Inmates help firefighters with the active 2015 wildfire season - KPTV - FOX 12

Inmates help firefighters with the active 2015 wildfire season

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Courtesy: Oregon Department of Corrections Courtesy: Oregon Department of Corrections
SALEM, OR (KPTV) -

During the active 2015 wildfire season, inmates from ten different correctional facilities in Oregon helped contain fires that were growing around the state, according to the Oregon Department of Corrections.

The inmates formed 10-person groups and were able to help fill the gap when firefighters were spread thin.

The inmate fire crews logged a total of 1,187 crew days at 40 different wildfires in Oregon.

"The corrections crews have always been a great asset to ODF," said Karen Swearingen, ODF's fire operations manager. "They perform year-round forestry-related activities as well as fire suppression duties during fire season. They are a valued partner in the complete and coordinated system."

According to a release by the Oregon Department of Corrections, preparations for the 2015 fire season began early last spring.

Inmates were carefully selected through a screening process and were low-risk offenders.

The Oregon Department of Forestry joined with the Department of Corrections to facilitate a one-week training course. After the course, inmates attained a ‘Firefighter II’ certification, which is an identical certification to agency and private firefighters.

Other inmates were trained in food service operations. Those groups were able to help serve and prepare meals to firefighters in fire camps that were set up at large wildfire areas.

Officials say overall in 2015, an estimated $2,158,000 was saved because of the collaboration between the Oregon Department of Corrections and the Oregon Department of Forestry. 

In the release, the Oregon Department of Corrections said that not only does the fire program save the state millions of dollars, it provides low-risk offenders the tools they need for future work opportunities, which helps prepare them for re-entry into the community. 

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