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Inmate accused of setting fire at Allegheny County Jail

Bob Bauder
| Thursday, March 8, 2018, 2:00 p.m.
Allegheny County Jail
Allegheny County Jail

An Allegheny County Jail inmate set fire to his own cell, injuring two correctional officers who extinguished the flames, Warden Orlando Harper said Thursday.

Authorities charged inmate Andrew Powell, 29, 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.

Powell of Verona was already facing charges of drug possession, driving without a license and escape, according to two active cases against him. Powell has a slew of criminal charges against him dating back to 2010 that include drug possession, theft, burglary and dangerous burning, court records show.

Earlier Thursday, Harper said an inmate notified a guard about a fire in his cell, prompting the evacuation of a pod housing 80 inmates on the jail's sixth floor Wednesday.

Two officers using a fire extinguisher put out the fire before Pittsburgh firefighters arrived. The fire, which started about 3:25 p.m., was not large enough to activate the jail's sprinkler system.

A sergeant and a corrections officer were treated at an area hospital for smoke inhalation and released. They have returned to work. No inmates were injured.

Harper said Pittsburgh fire investigators would determine the exact cause and origin of the fire, but he suspects the source was contraband that one of two inmates had in the cell. He did not identify the contraband and in a second statement he did not specify if Powell reported the fire or if it was the other inmate in the cell.

The two inmates assigned to the cell were placed into confinement pending disciplinary action.

Inmates who went to another area of the jail returned to their cells on Pod 6D around 5:15 p.m.

The jail was placed on lockdown, meaning all inmates were confined to their cells, until 7 a.m. Thursday when the jail resumed normal operations.

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-765-2312, or on Twitter @bobbauder.

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