Two inmates face accusations in the usage of water to damage an electrical panel in late 2019, causing a fire that led to the partial evacuation of the Atchison County Jail and the temporary housing of inmates elsewhere, pending repairs.
Sheriff Jack Laurie announced on Wednesday morning that two inmates have been placed under arrest in connection with the mid-December blaze, which caused extensive electrical damage. Twenty-one-year-old Nicholas S. Jackson, of Des Moines, Iowa, is held in connection with aggravated arson; Joshua L. Hosier, 36, of Atchison, is accused of aiding and abetting arson. The pair, who had been in jail in association with other criminal cases, remained in custody as of Wednesday morning in lieu of $50,000 bond, respectively, following their Tuesday arrest.
On Dec. 14 of last year, a jail cell became flooded, and inmates assisted in the clean up of the water by pushing it to floor drains located inside the chases between cells, which also contain electrical panels. Laurie said that during this cleanup process, jail staff opened the chase doors to allow inmates access to the drains, at which point an inmate accessed an electrical panel, and another inmate threw water on the components inside. A fire ensued and caused the electrical damage, Laurie said.
Laurie said jail staff have since received training on jail safety and security. Locks have been installed on all electrical panels, and procedures have been changed so that the number of inmates out of their cells during cleanup procedures will be strictly limited. Laurie said efforts are underway to study how flooding can be prevented with new technologies in the future, by monitoring how water flows from each cell in a flooding incident.
The total damages amount to about $50,000, Laurie said, while costs to house inmates at other lockups in Jefferson, Brown and Doniphan counties added to about $13,000; some inmates received housing at the Leavenworth County Jail at no cost.
“We have been in contact with our insurance company,” Laurie said. “(We are) ... currently in the process of submitting a claim.”
The fire ignited circuitry in the electrical box in the jail’s C Pod. It quickly burned itself out, but sizzled along wires and circuits that affected controls for lighting and secure doors. Jail staff worked with flashlights to ensure a safe and secure environment for the inmates during the subsequent evacuation. Per previous Globe reporting, the fire affected 57 inmates between the damage to the Atchison County Jail and required transportation to other detention centers. About 40 inmates remained displaced in the days after the fire. Atchison County EMS treated several inmates on site for symptoms consistent with smoke inhalation.