chapter  24
6 Pages

Correctional Facilities

Oily rags ignited a blaze on the roof of the overcrowded three-story Ohio State Penitentiary on April 21, 1930, resulting in a horrific fire that left 322 inmates dead from smoke inhalation. The undetected fire erupted minutes after iron gates had closed 4,500 men to confinement in their cells. Not a single guard or staff member had been trained in how to respond to a fire. The jail’s warden was initially certain that the fire had been designed as part of an escape plot. The fire advanced prodigiously, becoming so hot that a tower of catwalks warped and twisted into a snarl of metal. The 40-year-old structure contained six tiers of cellblocks, and those on tiers five and six were trapped by smoke and flame. Most inmates were eventually evacuated despite the ensuing chaotic nightmare.