Sheriff’s office records destroyed, fire caused by cigarette

Georgia News

WAYNESBORO, Ga. (WJBF)– Some records from the Burke County Sheriff’s Office destroyed after the storage shed was engulfed in flames over the weekend.

The fire was started by a cigarette. An employee was taking a smoke break in the designated smoking area, which is in front of the records shed. She put the cigarette in the ash tray and got back to work.

The container melted and fell over.

“It turned over next to a plastic garbage can that was next to it, and set it ablaze, which in turn set the building afire,” Sheriff Alfonozo Williams said.

Two people driving by saw the flames.

Credit: Burke County Sheriff’s Office

“And [they] pulled into the parking lot, rushed over, grabbed the water hose and started to fight the fire,” Sheriff Williams said. “And the two of them did so alternating for a while.”

Burke County EMA extinguished the fire.

“There were no injuries, no report of injuries, none of our inmates were exposed to any of it,” Sheriff Williams said. “As you can see, the fire is contained to the shed and did not reach either of the permanent buildings.”

Sheriff Williams says most of the files destroyed in the fire were already backed up digitally, or can be accessed elsewhere.

“We are pretty confident that we can still operate without any interruption in service,” Sheriff Williams said. “We do not believe that there are any open criminal cases that are compromised because of this fire.”

The Burke County Sheriff’s Office digitally backed up three decades of records. Sheriff Williams says no criminal investigation evidence whatsoever was stored in the shed.

But some documents are lost forever, like documents from the 1940s and 1950s.

“It’s devastating to lose records,” Sheriff Williams said. “They are historical data, but nothing that would compromise a criminal case or let go a violent offender or anything in that regard.”

The Sheriff’s Office says there will be no disciplinary action taken toward the employee. They said in a statement, “The fire was 100 percent accidental.”

The State Fire Marshal’s investigation findings will be released in the next few days.

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