CHEATHAM COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – After three fires during the month of July at the Cheatham County jail, administrators and jailers have re-examined its procedures.
The first fire on July 8 forced the entire jail to be evacuated for hours. The inmates were taken to the courthouse until it was deemed safe to go back. No one was injured.
The latest fires happened just hours apart this past weekend
According to investigators, inmate Timothy Bush somehow smuggled a lighter into his cell. Video obtained by News 2 shows the 32-year-old drug suspect set a book on fire before tossing it inside a mop bucket that he pushes into the center of the pod.
The fire grows in intensity inside the pail and creates smoke. Other inmates on the second floor tried to clear the air by waving towels and clothes.
A few moments later, the video shows a corrections officer moving the bucket to the shower and extinguishing the blaze.
Just a few hours later, another fire is lit when inmate Bobby Maynard used a lighter to ignite something, possibly a cloth.
The 19-year-old can be seen on video throwing the burning item into the shower. A few minutes later the flame has grown, creating smoke and confusion. For a second time in just a few hours, jail staff extinguished the fire.
“Cheatham County Sheriff’s Department won’t tolerate it and put up with it. We have criminals inside our jail committing crimes,” said Lt. Shannon Heflin.
Since the fires first began, jail administrators have re-examined their procedures and especially safety.
The sheriff told News 2 part of the problem is overcrowding, and it’s hard to isolate inmates who are disruptive– and it’s even harder to find contraband smuggled into the cells.
According to sheriff’s investigators, the facility’s maximum capacity is 116 prisoners. On Tuesday, there were more than 150 prisoners there.
Heflin said the conditions inside the jail can be hazardous with so many inmates inside.
“It’s not safe,” Heflin said. “Our guys put up with a lot down there – they have guys spitting on them. It’s a dangerous place to work. It’s a dangerous atmosphere.”
The good news though, is deputies are doing a better job of arresting criminals on the outside, but the bad news is more criminals inside mean jailers and deputies have to be on their toes when it comes to safety and smuggled contraband.
“We will do everything we can to make sure the other inmates are safe and the officers working down there go home at the end of the day,” said Lt. Heflin.
The inmates who set the fires are both charges with felony arson and vandalism.
The sheriff said the jail expects to get a new X-ray machine in the near future that will help detect contraband on a prisoner’s person.