By Brittany Hailer
Pittsburgh Current Managing Editor
Editor’s Note: This is a breaking story and will be updated frequently.
Pittsburgh fire crews were on the scene for multiple fires and heavy smoke at the Allegheny County Jail. According to sources inside the ACJ, those fires were started by incarcerated persons protesting poor medical treatment and lack of medication. The county confirmed the fire started on pod 8E, the segregation, or solitary confinement, unit at the jail.
Assistant Public Information Officer at City of Pittsburgh Maurice Matthews confirmed “Pittsburgh Fire responded for reports of heavy smoke from inside the Allegheny County Jail. The Fire was extinguished. If you have any other questions. They will be handled by the county.” The Current has reached out to the county for more information.
Incarcerated persons called the Current earlier this afternoon. They reported fire alarms and that the entire jail is on lockdown. An individual who called alleged that incarcerated persons set the fire in protest: “They’re burning everything. The smoke is so thick you can’t even see. They’re not getting their psych meds up there. They’re throwing paper on fire. They’re calling the fire department.”
Allegheny County spokesperson Amie Downs sent the following statement: “A burning wick fell or was put into a vent on Pod 8E. The resulting fire was extinguished by staff. There were no injuries, no evacuations and the pod is being aired out. Pittsburgh Fire was on-site to inspect. The facility is on lockdown as is policy until operations return to normal.”
However, it is not clear where or how the reported second fire started. Or how a “wick” ended up in the air vents in the initial incident.
An employee at the ACJ confirmed that this fire occurred while several pods are on quarantine status for COVID-19.
Update 4/23/21: This story was updated to include statement from Allegheny County Spokesperson Amie Downs and information from a jail employee regarding quarantine status of ACJ housing units.