DOVER FOXCROFT, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- When wildfires are at their worst -- the Maine Forest Service sometimes calls on volunteers as back up. But it's getting more difficult to recruit civilian volunteers. Now, they're finding some of their best help behind bars.
Rangers train inmates to help tame Maine's wildfires, learning how to pump hoses, dig fire lines, and create fire cover.
The Forest Service has had a partnership with the Charleston Correctional Facility for more than 20 years -- but that partnership has become increasingly important.
According to Forest Rangers, it has become more difficult to recruit civilian help in a program called "Hot Shots."
Without help from the Hot Shots, they become more reliant on inmates.
"It's nice for them to be able to trust us with something like this," said inmate Steve Otis. "There are a lot of people that aren't really trusted to let us back into society."
All of the inmates that work with the Forest Service undergo a screening process.
The Forest Service does not accept sex offenders.
Only inmates nearing the end of their sentences are considered.
As they prepare to re-enter their communities, corrections worker Sam Bradeen said the training comes at an ideal time.
"It's very good character building skills," said Bradeen. "Working together, working with other agencies, working out in the community -- it's very good career building talents for them."
The angencies have created a mutually beneficial partnership, assisting the forest rangers as the worst of wildfire season nears.
"The July, August, September fires seem to involve heavier timber, a lot more work, and a lot more man power," said Forest Ranger John Blackstone.
Similar programs can be found at the Bucks Harbor and Bolduc Correctional Facilities.