THE ``unparalleled bushfire emergency'' in New South Wales and coming Tasmanian bushfire season has renewed calls for prisoners to fight fires.
The Bowen Fire Brigade, made up of Tasmanian prisoners, closed in early 2007.
The brigade's firefighting duties covered the Midlands, Hobart and East Coast districts.
Its tasks included clearing fire trails for the Parks and Wildlife Service, and hazard reduction burning for TasRail.
Other jurisdictions including California in the US, use prisoners to fight fires.
Prison Advisory Service convenor Greg Barns said he saw no reason why prisoners should not be involved with firefighting activities.
He said that prisoners were ``very capable'' of making a valuable contribution to the wider community. ``We would support this,'' Mr Barns said.
``Prisoners have a very good skill set when it comes to physical work and when it comes to having a strong sense of knowing how to react quickly to situations.
``It's also giving prisoners a set of skills and training to utilise when they go back into the community.
``It would be a very worthwhile task.''
Mr Barns said prisoners doing firefighting and other community work would help to change the public's perception of them.
``We are very supportive of prisoners having involvement in community activities,'' he said.
``And one hopes that changes the views of some people in the community who think prisoners are somehow of less worth than the rest of us.''
Correctional Services director Brian Edwards said the Tasmania Prison Service continued to support the communities affected by natural disasters.
He said the prison service had received ongoing support and assistance to maintain the Bowen Fire Brigade from the Tasmania Fire Service, before its closure in early 2007.
``But following a request to close the brigade by the Tasmania Fire Service, the TPS mutually agreed to close the service,'' Mr Edwards said.
He said inmates and staff of the prison service worked with the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association, Lions, Rotary, Natural Resource Management South, municipalities and the bushfire taskforce in providing labour to build new fencing on farms devastated by the January bushfires.