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MCTC transformer catches fire

June 18, 2009|By DAVE McMILLION

HAGERSTOWN -- A transformer that provides power to a Maryland Correctional Training Center housing unit caught fire Thursday afternoon, forcing 255 inmates to be moved to another housing unit, prison officials said.

The fire disrupted power to the housing unit and a generator was being used Thursday night to provide power to the building, according to Danielle Lueking, a spokeswoman for the State Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

Lueking said the inmates had returned to the unit by about 9:30 p.m. Thursday.

The transformer in the basement of Housing Unit Six malfunctioned and oil came out of the mechanism and caught fire, Fairplay Fire Department Chief Leonard Heller Jr. said.

The malfunction resulted in a smoke buildup, and firefighters used four fans to draw smoke out of the housing unit, officials said.

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Heller, who did not know what caused the transformer to fail, said there was nothing suspicious about the incident.

"That part of the building is always secure," Heller said.

Smoke from the fire set off alarms, and prison guards saw smoke when they went to the basement, Heller said.

Heller said most of the smoke was in the basement. If any reached the inmate area, it was minimal, he said.

About 46 firefighters responded to the fire, which was reported at 4:32 p.m., officials said.

Firefighters made sure air quality in the building was good before they left, Heller said.

Prison maintenance workers were expected to arrive at the prison after firefighters finished their work to assess the problem, Heller said.

It was the second fire this week at the prison south of Hagerstown.

About 1 a.m. Tuesday, MCTC officers put out a fire in a cell. Eugene Jones, who was in the cell, was treated for smoke inhalation at the prison infirmary and released.

Deputy fire marshals said mattress stuffing and toilet paper were used to start the fire in which no one else was injured.

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