Inmates joining battle against Georgia's wildfires

Inmates help fight fires

MENLO, Ga. -- In northwest Georgia, along the Alabama state line, the Tatum Gulf Fire has grown to 2,300 acres.

Now officials are using inmates to hold back the fire and protect people's homes.

Crews have been fighting the fire on Lookout Mountain for weeks. They thought they had it contained - but then it rekindled.

The resulting resurgence has led to all hands on deck as the fire fights to regain its momentum.

Gene Boyd is fighting fire with fire.

"If it jumps over this break, it's going to take another two and a half miles until we can make another stand," he said.

The crew demonstrated the stand they've established by intentionally burning the side of the line to protect the homes there.

Now, they're on mop-up duty.

"In about a 6 hour span we put almost 9,000 gallons down that hill." David Foxworth said.

Boyd and Foxworth are state certified fire fighters - there's just one difference.

"A lot of made some bad decisions in our younger years," Boyd said. "This gives us an opportunity to give back and learn some skills."

They're part of the Georgia Department of Corrections Fire Services Division.

Shawn Wombles is the chief.

"We train inmates to become firefighters," he said. "When they leave, they can become free world firefighters."

On Friday, those firefighters were saving homes from an oncoming fire.

"The greatest thing you can do is to help  somebody out," Boyd said.

There are a lot of success stories with this program.

One former inmate is now the fire chief in a Georgia town.

© 2017 WXIA-TV


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