County inmates flee blazing dryer

A small dryer fire prompted the evacuation Monday night of the Island County Jail in Coupeville.

At approximately 7 p.m., towels drying in the machine caught fire. Once jail officers discovered the flames, they started dousing it with a dry chemical extinguisher and called firefighters, said De Dennis, jail administrator.

Joe Biller, chief of Central Whidbey Fire and Rescue, said jail staff did a good job extinguishing the fire. Firefighters finished the job and removed the debris.

Biller said a lot of smoke had spread through the building. Because of the smoke, the 55 inmates housed in the jail were evacuated for two-and-a-half hours while the building was ventilated. Personnel from the Island County Sheriff’s Office and the Coupeville Town Marshal’s Office kept watch. Dennis said there wasn’t any problems with the inmates.

The dryer was damaged but there were no injuries from the Monday evening fire.

Biller said two firefighters were sent to Whidbey General Hospital as a precautionary measure after they said they were feeling nauseous. They were released from the hospital at approximately 11:30 p.m.

Monday’s fire comes nearly two weeks after the Sheriff’s Office and Central Whidbey Fire and Rescue held a training exercise on how to evacuate the jail.

Dennis was pleased at how everybody performed and Biller was amazed that Monday’s incident was so similar to the training exercise.

Biller said the fire happened on the district’s training night and there were 18 firefighters ready to respond. He added that North Whidbey Fire and Rescue and the Oak Harbor Fire Department also sent personnel and equipment, but they were recalled after firefighters responded and saw the nature of Monday’s fire.

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