WILSONVILLE, OR (KPTV) - Dozens of inmates who volunteered to join fire crews to help fight Oregon's historic wildfire season last year recently had their sentences reduced and were released on Thursday.
In June, Governor Kate Brown announced she had commuted the sentences of 41 inmates in recognition of their efforts to help firefighting efforts. The governor requested the Oregon Department of Corrections perform a case-by-case analysis of adults in custody who fought the fires for a possible one-time 12-month conditional commutation of their sentences.
On Thursday, FOX 12 captured the moment Nayah Addington was released from the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility and reunited with her family. It was an emotional moment that was a year early, thanks to her hard work on the fire crew. Addington was one of the inmates across the state who had their sentences reduced for helping to protect buildings and homes during last year's fire season.
"That feels like redemption. It feels like being seen and recognized for somebody that I never thought that I could be," said Addington, who worked three fire seasons during her sentence doing the same grueling work that wildland fire crews do.
"They dig hand lines, they operate chainsaws, do hose lays, all the stuff a normal wildland fire crew would do," said Lt. Justin Wylie, Fire Program Manager at the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility.
Addington told FOX 12 she's grateful she had that opportunity and for the people who led them while out on the fire lines, and says that joining the fire crew changed her life. She's now looking forward to what's next and that includes pursuing a new passion.
"Aside from doing the fire crew program here, I'm also in the electrician program, so that's a trade that I've really grown to love," she said.
Wylie told FOX 12 the program started in 2015, and says he has crews from Coffee Creek out on the fire lines right now. He says there are two crews deployed on the Bruler Fire. The crews are prepared for a potentially long fire season. He also said it's been a successful program so far, with some former firefighters getting hired on with contract crews after their time and a few others working with the Oregon Department of Forestry.