Thursday, August 13, 2015

Inmates learn job skills, earn wages restoring classic fire engine for rural fire department

A program in rural Montana is helping to restore pride in the community while providing job skills and life lessons for prison inmates. As part of the Montana State Prison’s Motor Vehicle Maintenance program, the Missoula Rural Fire District was able to restore a classic fire engine it lacked the means and funds to fix, while inmates picked up trade skills, wages and a sense of accomplishment, Kathryn Haake reports for the Missoulian. (Missoulian photo by Kurt Wilson: Missoula Rural Fire District firefighter Ben Crocker polishes the siren on the 1961 Harvester International fire engine)

The fire truck, a 1961 Harvester International, had been sitting around for years "hidden under layers of rust, pine needles and red paint faded to an obscure pink hue," Haake writes. The cost for repairs was not in the department's budget. So, officials turned to the prison program, where inmates "spent 280 hours painting, fixing and installing $14,500 worth of parts and generally restoring the engine to its former glory." Inmates earned about 85 cents an hour to work on the truck. That's not a lot of money but enough to purchase goods or save for when they are released.

"The inmates cut glass to match the traditional window size, created metal labels that identified the engine's original brand and fashioned metal knobs in their shop to replace those that had fallen apart due to use," Haake writes. "Altogether, Missoula Rural Fire paid $22,500 for the restoration project, using funds donated by the families of deceased rural firefighters Richard Bertlin and John Jirsa." (Read more)

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