Prison inmates assist Box Springs Fire crews

Prisoners help set up fire camp; screened for selection

Fire camp sprouts in forest

PRINEVILLE, Ore. - In the serene woods near the Ochocos, crews battle the Box Springs Fire.

But just down the road, crews of a different kind are preparing the fire camp.

A dozen inmates from Snake River Correctional Institution in Ontario and 10 from the Powder River facility in Baker are lending a helping hand.

"A mobile kitchen crew to help set up the kitchen, feed all the firefighters and all the support staff. As well as a camp support crew to keep the grounds clean," said state Department of Corrections Lt. Justin Wylie said Tuesday.

The inmates will prepare breakfast and dinner for the crews in an on-site mobile kitchen, as well as put together bagged lunches for them to fuel up on the fire lines.

It's a huge help for crews, as well as the inmates.

"It gives the inmates a viable job skill, that they can take with them when they parole," Wylie said.

The inmates are staying at the camp site with the firefighters.

Wylie has managed inmates on wildfires since 2006. He says each inmate eligible to help goes through a strict screening process.

"There's no inmates that have been convicted of a sexual offense. We don't allow those inmates outside of the fence in these type of environments," said Wylie.

But for those who qualify, it's a chance to rebuild their lives while helping firefighters in their battle to stop the flames.

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