- Associated Press - Thursday, January 15, 2015

SUNBURY, Pa. (AP) - One day after a fire ripped through a central Pennsylvania jail and prompted the evacuation of more than 200 inmates, county officials said the nearly 140-year-old facility must be torn down.

Officials held an emergency meeting Thursday morning and deemed the Northumberland County Prison a total loss that could not be rebuilt at its current location blocks off the banks of the Susquehanna River.

“This building is completely destroyed,” County Commissioner Vinny Clausi told The Associated Press. “There will not be another inmate at that location again.”

County officials haven’t decided how they’re going to replace the jail in Sunbury, a city of 10,000 about 40 miles north of Harrisburg, but were discussing regionalizing the jail system with neighboring counties.

The state will house the county inmates at no charge for 30 days, Clausi said. After that, county officials will announce their plans.

No injuries were reported to staff or the 208 inmates, who initially were taken under heavy guard to nearby Faith United Methodist Church.

The Rev. Ronald Troup, the church’s pastor, said he received a call shortly after the fire broke out from a county commissioner requesting to use the sanctuary as temporary shelter for the inmates.

“When he called, we opened up,” Troup said.

County officials said the male and female inmates were being moved to separate state prisons, and a neighboring county had agreed to house new inmates brought in following the fire. Troup said the last inmates were brought out of the church at about 6 p.m.

The Department of Corrections was coordinating with county officials to determine how long the inmates would be at the state’s facilities, department spokeswoman Susan Bensinger said.

Commissioner Stephen Bridy said the building was insured for $9.3 million plus $1 million in expenses, which he said would be enough to offset the cost of a new facility.

The fire broke out Wednesday afternoon. It took firefighters more than eight hours to extinguish that blaze. Thick smoke could be seen billowing from the roof of the stone building with castle-like parapets, which was built in the late 1800s.

Firefighters were back at the site Thursday morning after the blaze reignited. Flames were seen around 6 a.m. shooting up the stone walls of a tower at the jail.

Officials don’t yet know how the fire started.

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