Director of Vigo County Community Corrections Center says his staff and offenders 'did it right' in fire evacuation

There were three staff members on the job at that time that worked to safely evacuate the 54 offenders.

Posted: Jun 28, 2018 6:48 PM

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) - On Wednesday, we first told you about a fire at the Community Corrections Center in Vigo County.

In total, 54 offenders had to be evacuated.

The fire was ruled as arson.

Surveillance video shows the man that police believe started the fire freely walk into the front door of the building.

He had what looked like a bug sprayer, but police say it was a fire accelerant.

At around 3:00 a.m. he set some office spaces in the building on fire.

There were three staff members on the job at that time that worked to safely evacuate the 54 offenders.

Community Corrections Executive Director Bill Watson spoke with News 10 and said he wants to assure the community everything was done well.

Fire alarms were going off, water was spraying everywhere, and it was pitch dark, and yet, Watson says, his three works got all of the offenders out safely without losing anyone.

All within a five-minute window.

LINK | SURVEILLANCE VIDEO SHOWS THE MAN SUSPECTED OF SETTING FIRE TO COMMUNITY CORRECTIONS BUILDING WALKING THE HALLS

"The offenders did it right...they cooperated. The staff did it right. These things people need to know, you know? There was a huge tragedy avoided. One of my biggest fears from the day we opened this building has always been fire," Watson said.

Watson said public safety was never neglected.

There were able to monitor all offenders electronically thanks to an emergency backup procedure.

But now, Watson says the security of the building needs to be discussed and possibly upgraded.

"Did we ever anticipate that someone would penetrate that door like that with all the lights and all the cameras outside the building? But somehow, someone was able to do that and we're looking at that now and reviewing what can be done differently," Watson told us.

He says other than in the detention facility, everyone can move around freely and it's open to the public.

He told us that may have to change in the future to prevent similar violence.

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