Smoke from overheated central air system forces evacuation of jail

January 13, 2021
By: Dwayne Page

Smoke from an overheated central heat and air unit at the DeKalb County Jail forced an evacuation of the building this morning (Wednesday).

Correctional officers and other jail staff sprung into action quickly escorting inmates from their cells to the fence enclosed exercise pen outside the jail. No one was injured and there was no damage to the building.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said a jail cook spotted smoke from a back hallway and alerted the officers.

“This morning (Wednesday) at around 7:47 a.m. the jail cook was walking in a back hallway near the kitchen area of the old part of the jail and noticed what she believed to be smoke in the hallway. She immediately went into the kitchen area and noticed smoke coming from the central heat and air ducts and the smoke was getting thicker and thicker. She immediately radioed other correctional officers who then called Central Dispatch for a possible fire,” said Sheriff Ray.

The Smithville Fire Department arrived on the scene a short time later.

“The inmates were outside long enough for the building to be cleared of smoke and then we moved them to the annex side of the jail. They are now back in their original cells. ” Sheriff Ray said.

“It is believed a central heat and air unit somehow got hot and produced smoke through the air ducts that run in the kitchen, the back hallway and administrative office in the old part of the jail. A central heat and air maintenance company came and inspected the air units today and as of now, they think they have fixed the problem,” he continued.

“The correctional officers in the jail are trained for emergencies like this and they conduct fire drills on each shift for the entire jail every three months. Our last fire drill was conducted on December the 11th and 14th on both day and night shifts”.

“I want to thank the correctional officers and other department personnel for their quick thinking and evacuation of the jail in a timely manner. I also want to thank the dispatchers at Central Dispatch, the Smithville Fire Department, Smithville City Police Department, DeKalb EMS and Constable Mark Milam for their assistance today,” added Sheriff Ray.