As terrible as the recent wildfires have become in B.C., they have also brought communities together.
Firefighting crews from across the province have been dispatched to combat wildfires in the North and Interior parts of the province, volunteers have jumped in to help people and animals as they evacuate their homes, and donors from across the country have contributed to the Canadian Red Cross.
But, another community has also been helping – from behind bars.
Inmates at the Nanaimo Correctional Centre (NCC) are participating in the Hose Wash Program, an initiative that is part of the BC Corrections Fire Suppression Program, in partnership with the BC Wildfire Service.
The NCC is a medium-level prison housing inmates on Vancouver Island.
The Hose Wash Program sees inmates repair, clean and dry thousands of fire hoses from across the province, which are then returned and re-used by the wildfire service.
Between 25-50 inmates participate in the program, repairing upwards of 42,000 hoses per year.
“For me, this wasn’t just about making time pass. We got that it was important to a lot of people out there working the fire lines, so that really motivated us to get it done right,” said an inmate at the NCC in a statement, whose name could not be released. “Some of the guys even showed up on their days off. Keeping up my work ethic will help when I get out.”
In 2017 the program was extended to run on evenings and weekends so that more repairs could be done to meet higher demands.
This year over 27,000 hoses have been processed. And inmates at the NCC recently started repairing relay tanks as well, which are portable water tanks used by fire crews. So far in 2018 they’ve repaired 278 relay tanks.
“In efforts to support forestry we have increased the hours of our hose wash crew to include evening and weekend work. We have also increased our staffing levels to support and assist the work crews,” said Teresa Owens, NCC Deputy Warden of Programs in a statement.
“It is critical that we get the maximum amount of hose [sic] back into circulation as quickly as possible,” Owens said. “By performing this important work, NCC residents are able to give back to their communities and they are eager to contribute to the fire suppression efforts provincially.”
Inmates are paid between $2 and $8 per day to participate in the program. This means the cost of repairing a hose for the province is approximately $15, as opposed to $140 to buy a new one.
The hose washing program is not new; in fact it has been ongoing for more than 30 years. But services have expanded to do more than washing and drying, and now include repairs, splicing and testing.
The NCC is one of only four B.C. correctional facilities involved in the Fire Suppression Program.
Crews from the Fraser Regional Correctional Centre and the Prince George Regional Correctional Centre set up and take down firefighting camps, and assist with camp inventory and maintenance. Crews from the Ford Mountain Correctional Centre inspect, test and repair firefighting hand tools such as axes, shovels and fire rakes.