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More than 50 inmates are now on-hand at the Carlton Complex fire, helping out on both the fire lines and in the kitchen, serving meals to the more than 2,500 firefighters battling the flames.

It's a partnership between the Department of Corrections and the Department of Natural Resources that began more than 50 years ago.

They really feel like they're contributing, not only to the firefighters by feeding them, but to the community as a whole, said Sergeant Don Earls with the Department of Corrections.

He is currently supervising the 55 inmates assigned to the Carlton Complex fire.

On Thursday morning, the inmates awoke at 1 a.m. to begin preparing breakfast to hundreds of firefighters.

It's a good sense of accomplishment, it helps the community, and we know we're doing something we should be doing, said inmate Liam Moynihan. And people like the food, so that's good!

The Department of Corrections says the inmates go through a strict screening process and are chosen only from minimum security facilities. Only offenders who are within four years of completing their prison sentence are eligible to work at the wildfires.

A lot of them have abused drugs in the past and are paying for it now, or car burglaries, thefts, things of that nature, said Sgt. Earls.

Firefighters seemed impressed with how fast the inmates can cook and serve enough food to feed so many people.

We've only been waiting in line about 15 minutes or so, said one firefighter. They've got waffles, potatoes, bacon, and oatmeal.

On Wednesday, the firefighters drank 500 gallons of coffee, just at breakfast.

Statewide, 232 inmates plus 24 supervising staff have been trained by the Department of Natural Resources to assist with wildfires. They'll be busy all season long, and sent wherever their services are needed.

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