04/29/2008

Fla. jail evacuated due to fire

The Associated Press

MIAMI, Fla. — A jail in northwest Miami-Dade County was evacuated Monday when winds began blowing a nearby brush fire in the facility's direction.

The blaze was about half a mile away from Metro West Detention Center when officials started bussing out inmates late in the afternoon after winds changed direction, said Lt. Elkin Sierra, a spokesman for Miami-Dade Fire Rescue.

Fire rescue workers had been battling the 80-acre fire since 12:30 p.m., Sierra said.

The 2,634 male inmates will be distributed among facilities in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, said Miami-Dade County Corrections Department spokeswoman Janelle Hall. Officials tried to strike a balance between evacuating inmates quickly but safely, Hall said, declining to get into specifics for security reasons.

A neighboring prison evacuated 21 staff members from an on-campus housing area, said state Department of Corrections spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger. The South Florida Reception Center evaluates inmates before they are sent to their main prison.

"We don't expect to move inmates," Plessinger said, but those with respiratory problems are being identified in case smoke from the fire forces their evacuation.

The roughly 1,100 male inmates at the prison are being kept in their cells, and food is being taken to them, while the fire is burning, Plessinger said.

"Anytime there's any kind of smoke in the area, as a precaution we pull the inmates in," she said.

The area around the jail and prison is sparsely populated, with little more than farms in the vicinity.

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