An early-morning fire Wednesday in a laundry facility on the grounds of Sampson Correctional Institution was able to be extinguished with minimal damage and no injuries, said local fire officials, who called the incident “accidental.”
According to reports, the Sampson County Central Laundry area is located in a freestanding building that is down the hill from North Boulevard in Clinton, behind the prison facility where inmates are kept. Interim Clinton Fire Chief Austin Tew said the department responded to an alarm at about 4:10 a.m. Wednesday, ultimately clearing the scene about three hours later, around 7 a.m.
Along with the Clinton Fire Department, units from Turkey, Salemburg and Halls offered mutual aid. Tew said no one was in the building at the time and the investigation was handed over to the Sampson County Fire Marshal’s Office.
“Right now, (the cause) will go undetermined as I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it was,” Deputy Fire Marshal Prentice Madgar said Wednesday, noting it was nothing electrical in nature. He had his theories, but none that he said could be substantiated without a doubt and none of them was suspicious in nature, he noted.
“It was an accidental fire. There was nothing deliberate about it,” Madgar remarked. “It started in a laundry cart in the upstairs office. The only time people are there is when the laundry is up and running.”
According to Madgar, the last laundry shift was completed at 2 a.m., about two hours before the alarm sounded.
Madgar noted the point of origin was believed to be a rewash laundry cart, where items are placed that may need to go through the wash again. Those rewash carts sit to the side of the clean laundry and contain towels, bed sheets, clothes, uniform pants and other items. Tew said laundry from other facilities is also brought to the central laundry to be cleaned.
There were about seven laundry carts and a couple trash cans damaged as a result of the fire.
“There was no structural damage to the laundry building,” said Madgar, who noted the building was made of concrete, brick and steel. “There was some heat and smoke damage and a lot of soot inside.”
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