Prison inmates on Vancouver Island have become a critical part of the battle against B.C. wildfires.

They aren’t on the front lines, but they are working in a race against time to make sure firefighters have what is arguably their most important tool: fire hoses.

Inmates at the Nanaimo Correctional Centre repair, clean and dry thousands of fire hoses from across the province.

"By performing this important work, NCC residents are able to give back to their communities and they are eager to contribute to the fire suppression efforts provincially," said Teresa Owens, Deputy Warden of Programs at the facility.

The program has been in place for three decades, but this year it expanded to seven days a week to keep up with demand in what has been the worst wildfire season in B.C.'s history.

The prisoners' labour saves the province thousands of dollars.

They can repair a hose for about $15, compared to replacing a hose at a cost of up to $140.

In 2017 inmates worked on more than 42,000 hoses, a record number they are likely to beat this year, having already passed the 27,000 point.

They earn between $2 and $8 a day, depending on whether they do an entry level job or have worked their way up to a supervisory position.

According to the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, the program is about more than the salary. It provides valuable work experience for inmates, whether they're training, working in quality control or learning to drive a forklift.

"Keeping up my work ethic will help when I get out," said an unnamed inmate in a statement provided by the ministry.

"We got that it was important to a lot of people out there working the fire lines, so that really motivated us to get it done right."