These men haul chainsaws, axes, and other heavy equipment through ankle-deep ash, up mountainsides, hacking at the earth in search of smoldering embers.
And they do it for just $6 a day.
But for this crew of Oregon prison inmates, such as Rhett Howerton, it’s an opportunity.
"It gives them a chance to get out of the facility. It gives them a chance to learn a lot about what it means to be a team member. It gives them a chance to really show what they can do instead of being viewed as inmates. And I'm out here because I love the woods, and it gives me a sense of purpose."
The men wake at 6:30 a.m. each day in Oregon's cold early fall dawn. They wear sweatshirts identifying them as inmates. Then they form ten-man fire-mopping crews and set out to stamp out cinders still burning from the record wildfires that have so far torched more than one million acres this season.
For decades, Oregon and other states have relied on prison labor to battle forest fires.
Many of the inmates have violent crime convictions, including assaults and armed robberies. No one convicted of homicide or sex crimes is allowed to do this sort of labor.
David Halblieb is a correctional officer who sees the program as boon for the prisoners.
"Most of them love it and it's just a good experience to be in the outdoors, the feeling of being semi-free, you know. A lot of them want that life skill. Some of them, in fact, say this is what they've decided they're going to do. Some of them really want to do this after they get out."
Inmate Desmond Delille seems to agree:
"It's a good program. It gives you the chance to get out of the institution and meet firefighters and see what it's like so if we want to do this when we get out, it gives you the chance to do something that's not on the streets."