Firefighters tackle prison roof blaze after 'drunk inmate' sets clothes on fire

Telegraph Reporters
The fire happened at HMP Guys Marsh, near Shaftesbury, in Dorset - Google

More than 60 inmates were evacuated from their cells after a man torched his clothes and set the prison roof on fire.

As many as 21 fire engines were sent to tackle the blaze from 8.30pm on Friday and into Saturday morning at HMP Guys Marsh, near Shaftesbury, in Dorset.

It is believed the inmate was wearing a "couple of sets of clothes" when he clambered up to the roof during disruption at the Category C prison, before stripping off and starting the blaze.

A total 64 inmates were evacuated from their cells and taken to a "secure zone" overnight.

Dorset police, whose CID unit is investigating the blaze but is yet to make an arrest, said no inmates escaped and no inmates or staff were harmed.

A Prison Service spokesman said: "Prison staff worked with the emergency services to successfully resolve an incident involving one prisoner at HMP Guys Marsh on Friday evening.

"We will take the strongest possible action against anyone involved, which could mean extra time behind bars."

The drunken inmate was protesting against changes to the prison regime, according to the BBC.

A person purporting on Facebook to be a former worker at the prison said a new kitchen and boiler house are being built.

Prison Officers Association spokesman Glyn Travis said the organisation was awaiting a report from the Ministry of Justice on the incident and said there was a "long history of chequered problems at Guys Marsh" including drugs and the smuggling in of mobile phones.

"I am not sure why this man has taken this action and certainly we don't condone it and what we do try to do is encourage them to register their complaints through the proper channels," he said.

"When prisoners complain of a change in regime they are usually talking about the cut to staff - regimes are being changed every day - which can means more and more time locked up in the cell rather than attending behaviour courses, so we have some sympathy.

"Unfortunately it's only when some prisoners take such actions, which are costly incidents for the taxpayer, that the public tend to wake up and realise these issues."

During the prison's last inspection, investigators found it was in "crisis" and managers and staff had "all but lost control".

The unannounced inspection, triggered by "concerning intelligence", found gangs "operated openly" in the facility, which was overcrowded with 543 male inmates in November 2014.

Violence, largely driven by the drug "Spice" and illicitly brewed alcohol, was "very high" and inmates lived in fear, the HM Inspectorate of Prisons wrote in the 2015 report.

The facility holds prisoners serving life sentences as well as those undergoing drug addiction treatment, according to the Ministry of Justice website.

In November, images of inmates eating steaks and takeaways captured on smuggled mobile phones at the prison were condemned as "totally unacceptable" by Downing Street.

Timeline: Violence at UK prisons

The prisoner, who police believe deliberately started the blaze, was treated by paramedics as a precautionary measure.

Superintendent Caroline Naughton said: "This was an isolated incident. An investigation is now under way to establish the exact cause of the fire. These enquiries remain ongoing.

"We would like to reassure members of the community that there is no immediate risk to those living in the surrounding area and that the incident is under control."

She later added: "As it is suspected that the fire was started maliciously an investigation by CID is now underway.

"Those alleged to have been involved in the incident as well as witnesses are being interviewed to progress the investigation."

By using Yahoo you agree that Yahoo and partners may use Cookies for personalisation and other purposes