Firefighters again battling flames at Pennsylvania prison

SUNBURY, Pa. (AP) — Firefighters were back at a nearly 140-year-old central Pennsylvania prison Thursday morning after a blaze that prompted the evacuation of more than 200 inmates reignited.

Flames were seen around 6 a.m. shooting up the stone walls of a tower at the Northumberland County Prison in Sunbury, a city of 10,000 about 40 miles north of Harrisburg.

The original fire broke out Wednesday afternoon. It took firefighters more than eight hours to extinguish that blaze.

Thick smoke could be seen billowing from the roof of the stone building with castle-like parapets, which was built in the late 1800s and sits a few blocks from the banks of the Susquehanna River.

No injuries were reported to staff or the 208 inmates, who initially were taken under heavy guard to nearby Faith United Methodist Church.

The Rev. Ronald Troup, the church’s pastor, said he received a call shortly after the fire broke out from a county commissioner requesting to use the sanctuary as temporary shelter for the inmates.

“When he called, we opened up” our doors, Troup said.

County officials said the male and female inmates were being moved to separate state prisons nearby, and a neighboring county had agreed to house new inmates brought in following the fire. Troup said the last inmates were brought out of the church at about 6 p.m.

A state prison spokeswoman said she could not discuss any prison transfers because of security concerns.

County Commissioner Chairman Vinny Clausi said the building appeared to be a “total loss” and called it “a sad day for taxpayers.”

Commissioner Stephen Bridy said the building is insured for $9.3 million plus $1 million in expenses, which he said would be enough to offset the cost of a new facility if one is needed.

Officials said a long-term plan for housing the displaced prisoners would be discussed during a conference call between county and state officials Thursday.

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