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Smoke forces evacuation

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff
Utah Highway Patrol troopers watch as firefighters respond to an incident Saturday at the Summit County Jail. Photo by Scott Sine/Park Record
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Alarms blared Saturday afternoon with the Park City Fire District minutes from cutting a ribbon at its newest station near Promontory.

It couldn’t have been scripted better.

They insist smoke inside the Summit County Jail at 6300 North Silver Creek Drive wasn’t planned, but a call firefighters in Promontory received from essentially right next door, provided a splendid opportunity for the department to show the open-house crowd the speedier response times the new facility allows.

Debris was apparently smoldering inside a vent in the jail in Silver Creek when a dispatcher reported the "commercial fire" around 1:45 p.m. The ribbon cutting was slated 15 minutes later.

The fire began in a utility closet between cells in a housing unit for men, firefighters reported.

Within minutes, prisoners were evacuated into a "secure location" elsewhere inside the Summit County Justice Center, which houses the Sheriff’s Office, the Summit County Justice Court and the Silver Summit Third District Court, Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds said.

Neither smoke nor flames were visible from the barren prison yard when a fleet of fire engines and ambulances arrived on scene. Firefighters began filing in and out as armed guards closely watched the jail doors.

In an interview at the scene, Mark Billmire, a Park City Fire battalion chief, described the incident as a "possible flash fire."

No injuries were reported.

Nearly 100 prisoners were evacuated, according to Edmunds.

"We have places we can shelter them," he said. "It was done very, very well."

Sparks from a heater that began smoldering in a pile of lint likely caused the smoke, the sheriff added.

"It was relatively benign," Edmunds explained. "There was no fire, just smoke."

The incident resulted in no structural damage and all inmates are accounted for, the sheriff said, adding, "We do this type of contingency planning all the time."

"All of our departments are trained up on it and ready to go and this was a good real-time event for us," Edmunds said.


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