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See how cigarette started sheriff’s station fire — and how heroes fought it

Published: Oct. 21, 2021 at 12:15 PM EDT
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WAYNESBORO, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Security video from the Burke County Sheriff’s Office shows how a fire erupted over the weekend, damaging a storage shed and destroying records.

It also shows how bystanders came to the rescue to try to put out the flames before firefighters arrived.

Above, you can watch the video of the incident that began with a fire in a cigarette butt container.

Sheriff Alfonzo Williams said that around 11:34 p.m. Saturday, an employee finished a smoke break in the designated smoking area outside the sheriff’s office and placed the cigarette in an approved plastic smoker’s receptacle.

Several minutes later, the receptacle started smoking and the handle of the receptacle melted, exposing the base of the container and a fire.

The base fell over and ignited a trash receptacle.

That’s all on the video.

The blaze reached the records storage shed and the winds were a contributing factor to the spread of the fire. Two passers-by noticed the blaze and pulled in to the sheriff’s office, grabbed a nearby water hose and fought the fire, Williams said.

The passers-by went to the detention center and alerted staff, who summoned 911.

Burke County Emergency Management and Sheriff’s Office staff responded.

Burke County Sheriff's Office fire
Burke County Sheriff's Office fire(wrdw)

Firefighters found the building engulfed by fire and were able to bring the flames under control and extinguish them.

The fire did not reach the permanent buildings.

There were no injuries nor complaints from employees or inmates. The incident in its entirety is on the video.

“The preliminary investigation by our office shows the fire was 100% accidental with a human element and was non-intentional,” Williams said in his statement.

State fire marshal’s and local fire staff spent Sunday combing through the scene and investigating the cause and origin of the fire.

Their findings will be made public through an official report.

The Burke County Sheriff's Office storage shed can be seen ablaze soon after the fire broke out.
The Burke County Sheriff's Office storage shed can be seen ablaze soon after the fire broke out.(WRDW)

Williams said his agency lost old docket books, card catalog files, old case files and other historical data, some of which may be stored in other locations such as the detention center, on digital format, or in the DA’s Office records retention files. Criminal history information is stored at the Georgia Crime Information Center and is assessable via digital format.

He said the agency has access to computer-generated criminal files (incident reports, arrest booking reports, etc.) dating back to 1990 on the old records management system and the same type files stored in the new records management system (2017 to present).

The agency had recently moved former employee files inside the permanent building, so they are intact.

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