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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on January 9th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 19, Issue 45 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 19, Issue 45

Fire leads to evacuation at main jail, northern branch to open late summer


The outbreak of an electrical fire at the Santa Barbara County Jail on Jan. 4 led to the immediate evacuation and temporary relocation of several inmates. 

The Santa Barbara County Fire Department responded to the jail at about 5:40 p.m., after a caller reported seeing smoke and small flames coming from an electrical outlet in the northwest section of the jail. 

Kelly Hoover, public information officer for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office, said that 18 inmates in one housing unit were evacuated and temporarily moved to other portions of the jail while fire personnel doused the flames and assessed the area. There were no reported injuries, and Hoover said inmates returned to their usual cells when the area was cleaned up three hours later. 

The fire was limited to one electrical outlet, Hoover said, and damage was minimal. 

At the same time, construction on the new Northern Branch Jail is coming along, and the facility will likely be completed by August, according to Thomas Jenkins, a retired sheriff's commander who is spearheading the Northern Branch Jail project. 

The roofing and outside of the 133,000-square-foot facility is mostly finished. Jenkins said the majority of work currently being done is on the interior, where walls, ceilings, and cabinetry are currently being installed. 

When finished, the new jail will provide Santa Barbara County with 375 additional beds, 32 of which will be dedicated to inmates with mental and physical health issues. There will be exercise yards attached to each housing unit, Jenkins said, along with visitation and professional conferencing stations. 

Although construction is currently on track to meet its August deadline, Jenkins said the jail was supposed to open last year, but faced numerous setbacks, including early rains in 2016, competition for necessary building materials, and difficulty retaining construction workers after the wildfires and mudslides in 2017, which resulted in an explosion of available rebuilding work. 

When opened, Jenkins said the Northern Branch Jail will relieve some of the strains on the main jail, which has been critiqued as being dirty, dilapidated, and overcrowded. 

"We've been overcrowded since the 1980s," Jenkins said, adding that the new jail should help diminish that long-standing issue. 

Weekly Poll
Should the proposed aquifer exemption in Cat Canyon be approved?

Yes—the water from the proposed area can't serve as drinking water.
No—oil containments could still pollute usable groundwater.
Additional oil and gas projects can create more jobs.
We need to move away from oil and gas and look at renewable energy projects.

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