Firefighters getting an unexpected helping hand from state inmat - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Firefighters getting an unexpected helping hand from state inmates

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SPOKANE COUNTY, Wash. -

During mealtimes at the fire camp at the Spokane County Fairgrounds you'll see worn out firefighters headed back from 12 to 14 hour days. Those crews are hoping for a hot meal and a good night's sleep. And you'll see people in red shirts serving those hot meals.

"These gentlemen are the guys who provide the meals for everybody. They do a real good job," says Christopher Randon.

For the last three years Randon has worked in camps like the one at the fairgrounds at wildfires around the state.

"They gotta keep it rolling because you want them to be as fresh as possible," Randon says.

Although he's had training, Ranon's not a firefighter, he's a convicted felon.

"I feel like I've done enough bad things, so it feels good to come out here and help people."

Randon is serving a nine year sentence for first degree assault. He's one of 250 inmates inmates from Larch Corrections Center in western Washington that work for the Department of Natural Resources.

"It's kind of hard sometimes because you're in a camp, but other than that, I just like the feeling I get from helping people."

Not only do programs like this save taxpayers money, they also help out local fire agencies who are already stretched thin.

"We appreciate what they're doing for our community and I wanted to make sure they heard that from me," said Asst. Chief Greg Godfrey with Spokane County Fire District 8. "So I came down here to thank them."

Randon is grateful for their thanks.

"They know what we're doing and who we are, so them to saying thank you for it, as opposed to just looking at you and walking away, it feels good to feel like you're needed."

The program has been around since the 1950s, and it's effective. Inmates who have been in the program are 22 percent less likely to re-offend and get sent back to prison.

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