UPDATED: Inmate Charged in March 7 Fire at the County Jail

UPDATE: Warden Orlando Harper and Allegheny County Police Department Superintendent announced that charges have been filed against inmate Andrew Powell, 29, as a result of a fire at the
Allegheny County Jail yesterday.

Powell has been charged with one count of causing or risking catastrophe, two counts of recklessly endangering another person, one count of institutional vandalism, and one count of felony criminal mischief.

PITTSBURGH – Warden Orlando Harper released the following information and update on the small fire which occurred yesterday at the Allegheny County Jail:

On March 7, 2018 at approximately 3:25 p.m., a corrections officer on Pod 6D was advised by an inmate of a fire and smoke which began in his cell. Upon closer examination, a small, smoldering fire was seen within the cell. At that time, the officer called for assistance and began an evacuation of the pod and a search of the unit for additional inmates. The approximately 80 inmates on Pod 6D were moved to another location on the floor. As per policy and protocol, the entire facility was put on lockdown, requiring all inmates to report to their cells.

Two officers responding to the request for assistance on the pod used a fire extinguisher in the pod to knock down the fire and then notified the engineers to begin ventilation of the unit. The sprinkler system in place at the Jail did not activate because the incident did not rise to a level of activation. The Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire arrived on scene, was briefed and took over the response to the fire. It is believed that the fire started due to contraband in the possession of an inmate in the cell, but official cause and origin will be determined by the City of Pittsburgh’s Fire Marshal.

Two employees, a Sergeant and a corrections officer, were taken to an area hospital for smoke inhalation. They were both treated and released, and returned to the facility. No inmates were injured, nor did any request to be seen by medical.

The Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire and investigators cleared the unit and inmates were returned to their cells, and operations returned to normal on Pod 6D at approximately 5:18 p.m. The jail resumed normal operations at 7:00 a.m. this morning, Thursday, March 8. The two inmates which were assigned to the cell in which the fire started were placed into pre-hearing confinement pending disciplinary action.