Current situation

Check with your local district or forest protection association for restrictions or use ODF's fire restrictions and closures webpage for the latest details at

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Oregon’s inmate fire crews prove their worth in 2013

Standing shoulder to shoulder on the fire line this summer with agency and private sector personnel were firefighters from Oregon’s correctional institutions. Each year the state departments of Corrections (DOC) and Forestry (ODF) team up to select and train inmate hand crews for dispatch to wildfires. During the severe 2013 fire season, the inmates put up some impressive numbers. Some 829 inmates from nine institutions logged 568 crew days at 36 different fires around the state.

Inmates selected to serve on the 10-person hand crews complete the same nationally certified firefighter training course as their civilian counterparts. They learn the essentials of wildfire behavior, firefighting techniques, communication and safety.

Filling an equally important role are the inmate camp crews. Drawn from prison kitchen facilities where they have been trained in food service, these inmates staff ODF’s mobile kitchens at large fires, serving meals day and night to two shifts of firefighters.

“We are pleased to continue a strong partnership with ODF, especially given this unprecedented fire season,” said DOC Director Colette S. Peters. “Our collaboration reduces costs for the state and provides meaningful work opportunities for adults in custody, which helps prepare them for re-entry to the community.”

In fulfilling Oregon law which requires inmates to contribute economically to the state, the crews tallied substantial cost savings when compared to hiring regular workers for the same tasks. On the Douglas Complex fires alone, use of inmates shaved an estimated $1.2 million off the total. Statewide, millions were saved due to inmate labor and the partnership with Corrections.

ODF’s Chris Hall commended the inmates and crew supervisors he worked with on the Rabbit Fire, one of the fires making up the Douglas Complex: “Your professionalism and constant attention to detail showed. With an excellent safety record and your firefighting skills, we were able to catch and hold a most difficult fire in steep, rough terrain.”

Inmates selected for the fire and camp crews are low-risk offenders. The hundreds of inmate crew shift deployments during the 2013 fire season were without incident.

Comments and questions

The purpose of this blog is to provide breaking news about wildfire activity on the forestlands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry. We invite you to post questions or comments about current wildfires. Please keep your posts civil and free of profanity.

Current wildfire info

National weather forecasters predictions that Oregon would see above average temperatures and below average rainfall in the summer of 2018 proved true. Almost all of Oregon was abnormally dry this summer, with a majority of the state in moderate to severe drought. Many areas posted record high temperatures or record strings of hot days. These conditions set the stage for potentially large, fast-moving wildfires.

What we do

Protection jurisdiction
The Oregon Dept. of Forestry protects 16 million acres of private and public forestlands from wildfire. This includes all private forestlands in Oregon as well as state and local government-owned forests, along with 2.8 million acres of federal Bureau of Land Management lands in the western part of the state. In total there are about 30.4 million acres of forest in Oregon.

Fire suppression policy
The department fights fire aggressively, seeking to put out most fires at 10 acres or smaller. This approach minimizes damage to the timber resource and fish and wildlife habitat, and protects lives and property. It also saves money. While suppressing large fires can cost millions of dollars, economic and environmental damage from wildfires can be many times greater.


About Me

My photo
Oregon Dept. of Forestry's public information officers in Salem, Ore., maintain this blog. During the wildfire season, we spend much of our time reporting on fires and firefighting to news media and the public.