The Cheatham County Jail was evacuated in the early evening hours of July 6, 2018, due to heavy smoke. According to Sheriff Mike Breedlove, there was an “acrid mechanical odor” emanating from the return duct in A-pod that was spreading to the other dorms, warranting a full evacuation of the building.
The cause of the smoke was later identified as originating from two wicks that inmates made from toilet paper; one was discovered burning, and one was found in return air duct work.
Approximately140 inmates were moved out of the confines of the jail and held in the General Sessions Court Room, Circuit Court Room, and the courtroom hallways. Additional deputies and city officers were called in to assist.
The security risk was elevated as unsecured inmates became increasingly agitated throughout the three-hour incident.
“Inmates were not secured behind locked doors and had the advantage of overpowering the few officers guarding them,” said Sheriff Breedlove who called in Tennessee Highway Patrol and had four troopers dispatched from Dickson.
On July 9, Deputy State Fire Marshal Russell Schwahn, Fire Safety Specialist Timothy Stack, and Allen Nicholson with the Ashland City Fire Department met with Sheriff Breedlove and jail administrator JJ Hannah to review the details of the incident.
The investigation is ongoing and criminal charges are expected, says Breedlove.