During the severe 2015 wildfire season, the State of Oregon and its federal and local partners put everything they had into the fight. Included in the mix was a resource not well-known to most Oregonians: prison inmates. Formed into 10-person crews, these nationally certified firefighters helped fill the gap when conventional forces became scarce at the season's peak.
All told, 330 inmates from ten Oregon Department of Corrections (DOC) institutions logged 1,187 crew days at 40 fires around the state. Unified by the Oregon Department of Forestry's (ODF) mission to put out fires at the smallest size possible, the inmate firefighters worked side-by-side with agency and contract firefighters.
"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."
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