Florida Fire Prompted Partial Jail Evacuation

April 30, 2008

Evacuation of a jail in Florida’s northwest Miami-Dade County was halted late Monday after fire rescue workers gained the upper hand on a nearby brush fire.

“It’s in check right now,” said Lt. Elkin Sierra, a Miami-Dade Fire Rescue spokesman. “We have some hot spots but it’s not the blaze it was earlier.”

Miami-Dade County Corrections Department spokeswoman Janelle Hall said the evacuation was halted because of the improved situation. She had no immediate information on how many inmates had already been evacuated or when they would return.

Fire rescue workers had been battling the 80-acre fire since 12:30 p.m.

The blaze was about half a mile away from Metro West Detention Center when officials started busing out inmates late in the afternoon after winds changed direction. The 2,634 male inmates were to be distributed among facilities in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

A neighboring prison evacuated 21 staff members from an on-campus housing area, said state Department of Corrections spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger. The South Florida Reception Center evaluates inmates before they are sent to their main prison.

“We don’t expect to move inmates,” Plessinger said, but those with respiratory problems are being identified in case smoke from the fire forces their evacuation.

The roughly 1,100 male inmates at the prison are being kept in their cells, and food is being taken to them, while the fire is burning, Plessinger said.

“Anytime there’s any kind of smoke in the area, as a precaution we pull the inmates in,” she said.

The area around the jail and prison is sparsely populated, with little more than farms in the vicinity.

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