By Francis Scarcella
The Daily Item
SUNBURY — A kitchen fire inside Northumberland County Prison late Saturday night sent city firefighters and police scrambling to the lockup, forced inmates outdoors into a heavy snowstorm and caused extra corrections officers to be summoned.
Seven buses were on standby in the event inmates had to be moved, said Steve Bridy, a Northumberland County commissioner and chairman of the prison board.
Prison guards called 911 after the fire began around 9 p.m. The Sunbury Fire Department and city police raced to the jail and corrections officers moved inmates outdoors into the jailyard.
Bridy immediately called colleague Vinny Clausi.
“I ... was instructed to start getting ready to call bus companies to transport the inmates,” Clausi said. “He was working with the prison and I was making calls in case we needed to act fast.”
Firefighters arrived within minutes of receiving the emergency call. At least 30 firefighters surrounded the prison, some scaling a ladder that was raised above the prison’s exterior wall to investigate smoke that was bellowing over its top.
Inmates sat in the jailyard and waited to hear further instructions.
“I was informed by Commissioner Bridy and prison officials the situation was under control and the prison will be aired out for a period of time,” Clausi said. “We did not have to move anyone and the inmates and staff are all fine. Our main concern was the safety of all these individuals and emergency responders did a great job.”
Fire truck engines roared as the snow continued to fall, and several passersby began to gather to see what all the chaos was about.
“I just left from a visit at 8:15 p.m.,” a woman said. “I flew back down here to see what was going on.”
Sunbury and Shamokin Dam police kept the scene secure and made sure no one got too close in case of an inmate transport.
Inmates were expected to return to their cells within a few hours of the fire, Clausi said.