Prison Fire Crew Helps Paint Hotel Deer Lodge - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Prison Fire Crew Helps Paint Hotel Deer Lodge

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For months now, ABC FOX MONTANA has been covering the purchase and development of the Hotel Deer Lodge.

This week, the Deer Lodge Development Group started repairing the outside of the building, but they're also receiving help from a group of people who spend their nights behind bars.

In the heat of the summer, these painters spend their days fighting wildfires.

Their nights though, are spent behind bars at the Montana State Prison.

"The MSP Fire Crew, it's a fire crew made up of inmates," said M.S.P. Fire Crew Supervisor Tom Gillibrand. "We are essentially a D.N.R.C hand crew and we go out and fight wild land fires with the D.N.R.C."

When it's not fire season the M.S.P. Fire Crew is working on community service projects.

Currently they're working on the outside of the Hotel Deer Lodge, a building that was purchased and is being renovated by the Deer Lodge Development Group.

"We are so fortunate that we have the prison fire crew here," said Sherrill Kraakmo, executive director of the Deer Lodge Development Group. "These guys have been doing an amazing job with scraping, with priming, and painting. They're just a tremendous help."

The inmates go through extensive screening before they are allowed on the crew.

They spend up to 8 hours working in the community before they go back to the prison.

"Obviously being where we're at, it's tough to feel valued I guess," said inmate Michael Gould. "It feels good to give back and have something to feel good about."

"I can drive up and down Main Street here and see 50 projects we've done in the last three years," Gillibrand said. "They like doing that. They can point out, "look we did that project, we did that project." It's pretty important I feel."

The prison fire crew says they will spend as much time at the hotel as needed, until their community work is completed.

The Deer Lodge Development Group says the E.P.A. will do testing on the inside of the Hotel Deer Lodge before they can renovate indoors.

They say it may be ten to twelve months before those renovations are started.

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