LEWISTON, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- After fires have devastated downtown Lewiston in recent weeks, the state is stepping in to help out with the cleanup effort.
The Maine Department of Corrections is sending prisoner work crews to Lewiston to clean up debris and other flammable material. They will be focusing on more than fifty vacant lots near the fire scenes, in areas that city officials believe pose a fire hazard.
"The problem is a lot of these property owners actually walked away from these buildings and they left a lot of material inside," Lewiston Public Works District Supervisor Michael Bernier said.
The first work crew arrived on Bartlett Street Monday morning to clean up a vacant lot near one of the fire scenes. Prisoners removed trash, furniture, and other flammable materials.
Bernier said the work is offered to the city at no cost, which is beneficial as resources have been stretched thin over the last several weeks.
"We're stressed for manpower right now, so we really don't have the access or the availability to tackle this job," Bernier said.
Four prisoners were in Lewiston Monday, and the department of corrections said it plans on sending more crews this week to assist with the cleanup effort.
"We've got these guys doing time, and a lot of them would like to do something constructive with it," Correctional Trades Instructor Brian Crockett said. "They're up here trying to do a good deed for the day, and give something back to their community."
City administrators said the help comes at a critical time, as the city is looking to intensify all available resources over the next thirty days to address vacant property conditions within the public priority response area.