Fires Erupt at Prison Complex Near Capital

From Times Wire Services

Fires erupted Friday night in buildings at a prison south of Washington, and authorities said an unknown number of inmates were free within the sprawling complex.

The fires at the Lorton Reformatory, about 20 miles south of the District of Columbia, appeared to be deliberately set, officials said. The medium-security complex houses inmates from the district and has been the scene of numerous inmate protests because of overcrowded conditions.

Washington Mayor Marion Barry interrupted his inauguration evening plans and flew to Lorton by helicopter.

There were no reports of injuries, said Lt. Mike Reilly of the Fairfax, Va., county fire department.


Escapees Not Known

Pat Wheeler, a spokeswoman for the District of Columbia corrections department, said it was not known if any inmates had escaped from the complex.

Reilly said firemen were at the prison but were not attempting to put out the fires until it was certain that the inmates were secured.

Witnesses reported police had rounded up hundreds of prisoners and taken them to a baseball field.

Lt. Robert Timmons of the Fairfax, Va., fire department, said one of the fires was in the administration building.

It was not clear how many buildings were on fire in the sprawling complex. One official said four buildings had fires, but there were other reports that only two buildings were aflame.

Washington police were being rushed to the area to back up prison guards and Fairfax County police. They included officers who had been assigned to protection duties at inaugural balls around the city celebrating the inauguration of President Bush earlier Friday.