The Search for Cause of Fire at Pennsylvania Prison

Fire investigators are trying to determine what started a blaze that ripped through a nearly 140-year-old central Pennsylvania prison, prompting the evacuation of more than 200 inmates.

The fire was reported Wednesday afternoon at the Northumberland County prison in Sunbury, a city of 10,000 about 40 miles north of Harrisburg, the state capital.

Flames and thick smoke could be seen shooting from the roof of the stone building with castle-like parapets, which was built in the late 1800s and sits a few blocks from the banks of the Susquehanna River.

No injuries were reported to staff or the 208 inmates, who initially were taken under heavy guard to a nearby church.

County officials said the male and female inmates were being moved to separate state prisons nearby, and a neighboring county had agreed to house new inmates brought in following the fire.

A state prison spokeswoman said she could not discuss any prison transfers because of security concerns.

County Commissioner Chairman Vinny Clausi said the building appeared to be a "total loss" and called it "a sad day for taxpayers."

Commissioner Stephen Bridy said the building is insured for $9.3 million plus $1 million in expenses, which he said would be enough to offset the cost of a new facility if one is needed.

Officials said a long-term plan for housing the displaced prisoners would be discussed during a conference call between county and state officials Thursday.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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