|The Oregon Department of Corrections (DOC) and the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) recently completed their annual fire school for adults in custody assigned to outside fire crews. This year, the two agencies continue a successful partnership into their 65th year; DOC’s South Fork Forest Camp (SFFC) in Tillamook has been jointly operating with ODF since 1951. Together the two agencies provide training, skills, and mentorship to adults in custody.
ODF fire personnel joined with DOC staff to conduct week-long training courses for inmates selected through a careful screening process. Inmate crews are provided classroom and field exercises to obtain their nationally-recognized Firefighter II certification – a certification identical to that of agency and private firefighters. In addition to those working the fire lines, other inmates are specially trained in food service operations to serve meals to thousands of firefighters stationed at fire camps, and to provide equipment repair.
The 2015 wildfire season proved challenging for DOC staff and inmates, who participated in 40 fires around the state, working side-by-side with other agencies and contract firefighters. As this year’s fire season gets under way, DOC and ODF are trained and ready to serve. Not only does the fire program save the state millions of dollars, it provides DOC’s low-risk offenders with the tools they need for future work opportunities, which helps prepare them for re-entry into the community.
“Forestry considers South Fork Forest Camp an investment and relies on the value of production to be greater than the costs to run the program,” said Nathan Seable, ODF Camp Manager. “In a given year, we can produce 28,000 man days of labor in support of reforestation, recreation maintenance, and wildfire suppression on state forest lands.”
“We are extremely proud of our long-standing, mutually beneficial partnership with Forestry,” said DOC Director Colette S. Peters. “The adults in DOC’s custody who participate in fire season gain essential skills and experience, which are vital to successful reintegration from prison to home. ODF gains talented, qualified workers who enhance their workforce while reducing overall costs to taxpayers. Together we accomplish great things and are proud to serve the citizens of Oregon.”