BUCHANAN COUNTY, Va. (WJHL) – The Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC) has joined local and state firefighters as they battle wildfires in Buchanan County.
According to a release from the VADOC, the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) contacted the VADOC to help contain fires on Buchanan County hillside Nov. 1. Six firefighters from the Department of Corrections joined the effort as the fire grew to hundreds of acres.
The six firefighters are probationers, the VADOC stated. Probationers are people who have been found guilty of crimes but are generally considered low-risk and allowed to serve periods of their sentences under supervision away from prison.
The department reports the six firefighters are with the Appalachian Community Corrections Alternative Program and were able to help due to a shared effort between VADOC and the VDOF. Nonviolent, low-risk probationers can join the program as firefighters and participate in fire-prevention activities.
The VDOF trains about 100 probationers as firefighters each year, the release states. The partnership between corrections and forestry began in 1996.
Probationers who have helped battle the Buchanan County fires said they were grateful for the chance to help their community.
“It was a great experience, and I loved the feeling of I was helping a community. I really feel like I did something good,” probationer Aaron Billings said in the release.
“These efforts help protect a vast area of both public and private properties,” VADOC Director Chadwick Dotson said in a release. “This is another example of how VADOC works to keep Virginia communities safe. These VADOC firefighting teams provide a valuable and necessary service.”
Probationers who battle the fires must be both medically and physically sound and undergo extensive training, the VADOC reports. Some of their duties include digging fire lines, back burning and checking for hot-spots.