At about 5:40 p.m. yesterday (May 26), staff personnel at the Burke County Jail reported the odor of smoke inside the jail. Subsequently, some of the electronic doors began to fail in seven of the nine pods. Manual override keys would not open the compromised lock leading into one of the seven cellblocks.
The Morganton Department of Public Safety was dispatched to the jail in the event that they were needed to suppress any fire or smoke, and to breach any compromised doors. Preparations began for the evacuation of the jail, if necessary. Off-duty Burke County Deputies were called in to assist the detention staff in supervising and moving inmates to other cells within the jail.
Four surrounding county sheriffs (Catawba, Caldwell, Cleveland, and McDowell counties) were contacted and agreed to take Burke County inmates into their facilities, if needed. The North Carolina Department of Public Safety Prison Emergency Response Team went on standby to assist and transport inmates, if needed.
By 10:30 p.m., all inmates had been moved to cells or remained in cells that had functional doors and locks. No inmates were moved to other facilities and no one was injured.
The source of the smoke is still under investigation. The jail is awaiting the lock company’s technician, who is expected to arrive today. The technician will determine the nature and cause of the malfunction and begin repairs.