Two unrelated fires impacted local law enforcement authorities over the weekend, the first coming at the Lincoln County Jail where 130 inmates had to be evacuated Friday night and the second coming Saturday evening at District Attorney General Robert Carter’s Fayetteville office.
The jail fire was caused by an inmate in one of the lockdown cells, said Sheriff Murray Blackwelder, explaining that the inmate had a lighter and apparently set fire to tissue he placed under his mattress. Authorities believe that the lighter was smuggled into the jail by another inmate. The prisoner charged in connection with the fire is Younger Toon, 47, of Fayetteville, who was being held on meth charges. Monday Toon was charged with one count of aggravated arson and one count of attempted murder in connection with the fire.
One officer, Sgt. Will Fountain, who charged into the Toon’s cell to pull the inmate to safety, was hospitalized for smoke inhalation. He was admitted to Lincoln Medical Center early Saturday morning, treated and then released Sunday.
“Sgt. Fountain and the entire shift did an outstanding job saving lives,” said Blackwelder Monday, commending, in particular, Lindsey Pigg, Jessica Feygo, Zek George, and Jeremy Spray in addition to Fountain. “Had they not re-acted the way they did, there probably would have been lives lost.”
Saturday night’s fire at the district attorney’s office on East Market Street in Fayetteville resulted from an electrical issue in the basement of the building, according to preliminary findings, said Fayetteville Fire Chief Danny Travis, whose men fought both blazes, quickly getting them under control before more extensive damage was done.
“The firemen’s quick response and the job they did was excellent,” said Carter Sunday. “I’m confident had they not responded as they did that the building would have quickly become engulfed and possibly been a total loss … I can’t thank them enough.”
The district attorney general also thanked the sheriff’s department whose initial crew secured the building, as well as Lee McAlister, the owner of the building, and Adam Eubanks, an investigator with the Fayetteville Police Department who called the fire in to dispatchers. Eubanks was attending a visitation at Higgins Funeral Home just up the street.
Both facilities are continuing to be impacted by the fires and perhaps more predominately by the smoke damage incurred as a result of the blazes.
“We’ve temporarily been displaced,” said Carter of he and his staff at the East Market location. “We’re actively looking for a place, but for the time being, we’ll use space in the child support division … It will be weeks and potentially months before we are able to return, and we ask folks to bear with us as we transition from the old office into a new one, and then later, back into this location.”
The office experienced a fairly significant amount of damage, he said, noting that in addition to files, some tools the staff uses in their work, such as computers, were likely impacted on the main and second levels of the building. Substantial damage was experienced in the basement where the fire began, but mostly archives, those pre-dating 2007, were housed there.
The sheriff’s department sent 19 inmates to Marshall County from the jail to clear cellblocks there. Day-to-day operations have been impacted as initially three cellblocks were unable to be occupied, but two of those, as of Monday, have been restored. It will probably be the end of the week before the third block is able to be occupied again. A restoration crew came the night of the blaze and worked throughout the next day. Inmate crews, under the direction of Gary Steiger and Mike Davis, have since worked to get all the blocks back into acceptable condition.
In addition to officers with the Lincoln County Jail, Sheriff’s Department and Posse, officers with Tennessee Highway Patrol and Fayetteville Police Department also assisted. Blackwelder also thanked the Fayetteville Fire Department and Keith Gill with the Lincoln County Department of Education’s School Bus Garage, which transported the 19 inmates to Marshall County, as well as the 911 Center.