Heating unit catches fire at correctional center

PARKERSBURG – A fire that caused inmates to be evacuated from the Parkersburg Correctional Center late Tuesday night was confined to a second-story room where it caused minimal damage.

The East Wood Volunteer Fire Department was dispatched to the center on Holiday Hills Drive overlooking Seventh Street, just outside city limits, at 11:16 p.m. Tuesday, according to Carl Sizemore, interim director of the Wood County 911 Center.

When the fire department arrived, the fire, which started in a heating unit in a room on the second floor of the converted Holiday Inn, had been contained by a corrections officer with a fire extinguisher, said Kenny Moore, East Wood deputy chief.

“One of those (units) had shorted out and caught fire,” he said.

The device was still smoking, so firefighters elected to remove it from the room quickly, rather than carry it through the building.

“We figured that was the quickest way, just drop it out the windows,” Moore said.

Damage was limited to the unit, Moore said. The fire is not considered suspicious.

The minimum-security facility houses up to 130 inmates, with 100 beds for work-release program participants and 30 for substance abuse treatment. Inmates were evacuated when the fire was reported.

The Deerwalk and Mineral Wells volunteer fire departments were also dispatched, which is standard procedure in the case of a potential large structure fire, Moore said. The other two departments were canceled once the situation was assessed.

A spokesman for the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety declined to release much information, other than to describe the incident as an “extremely minor fire” and say the safety of inmates and staff was not at risk.

“Damage was minimal and there were no injuries,” said Lawrence Messina, communications director for the department, which includes the Division of Corrections.

Staff writer Gretchen Richards contributed.