An unidentified inmate sets the Adams County jail on fire, forcing an emergency evacuation
Published 21:01 Wednesday 23 November 2022
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NATCHEZ — Firefighters, police officers and sheriff’s deputies packed the street outside the Adams County Jail on Thanksgiving Eve to respond to a fire at the jail.
Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten said no one was hurt and the fire was minor.
“When minor incidents happen, because of the design of the facility, it’s a major incident,” he said. The fire was quickly extinguished before it spread, but smoke filled the building, forcing an emergency evacuation.
Patten said he believes a disgruntled inmate started the fire with an exposed wire from a television set that was removed from a second-floor holding cell earlier in the day.
He received the call around 6:50 p.m. Wednesday and immediately mobilized several deputies and some Natchez police officers to keep inmates at bay during an evacuation.
“We did a shakedown today to remove contraband from the cells and took out extra mattresses and T-shirts,” he said. “Some inmates were not happy about this and got their hands on a mattress and set it on fire. The fire was easily extinguished, no one was hurt or injured. The public is safe. The only ones who were ever at risk were prison staff and inmates. Everything is under control and we are now clearing the prison.”
He said a total of 66 inmates are being held at the prison. All of the inmates on the second floor and some on the first floor were forced to evacuate, but have no other place to evacuate to than a small area in the back of the prison called the “port of descent.”
Twenty-six of these were held at the port of call while the Natchez Fire Department ventilated the building to clear the smoke.
Approximately 10 inmates had to be transported to Concordia Parish Jail.
“They jumped into action immediately and opened their doors to us,” Patten said. “I called attorney Scott Slover to make sure we could get her across state lines and he gave us the green light.”
Patten said investigators are reviewing security footage to determine who started the fire.
“It’s under investigation,” he said. “Once we determine who is responsible for damage to county property, we will absolutely charge them.”
Patten said push-button locking mechanisms on the ground where the fire started lost power and didn’t work. The prison also has a problem with inmates intentionally picking the locks on the doors, he said.
“In order to take corrective action, lockdown cells must be in place. We have no way of locking them and some cells don’t lock at all,” he said.
“It’s a constant problem in prison. We have no place to keep problem inmates away from others. … I keep telling everyone that we have to do something about the problems in this prison. Managers are aware of the issues and have assured me that they will work to fix some of the issues we are having. But we can’t keep kicking the can out onto the street.”