By Sarrah Peters, News Editor
On May 26, a fire broke out in Unit 3 of the Etowah County Detention Center threatening the lives of the inmates. The fire was started by ICE detainees with the possible intent of escaping. However, thanks to the quick response of detention center deputies Christopher Thornton, Andy Reed, Hay,den Clements and Tyler Cline a tragedy was avoided.
Finding the unit on fire and saturated with smoke, the deputies rushed in without protective gear to escort more than 20 inmates out of the unit and into a safe area. The deputies made several trips into the smoke-filled unit to get everyone out safely.
At the Etowah County Commission mee-ting on December 5, the deputies were recognized by Sheriff Todd Entrekin for their heroic actions.
Chief of Detention Scott Hassell noted that, while the deputies entered the unit without protective gear, the gear was available at the detention center.
“In those extra 60 seconds that it would have taken to secure protective equipment, they didn’t choose that,” said Hassell. “Instead, they immediately went into that unit. And after watching video of that incident, there is no doubt in my mind their dedication.”
All four deputies received plaques recognizing their dedication. Reed, Clements and Cline were also awarded Medals of Valor by Sheriff Entrekin. Entrekin said that the Medals of Valor have only been awarded six times in the 10 years he has served as sheriff.
“They could have chosen to say, ‘I can’t get in there,’” said Entrekin. “They could have chosen not to have done that. They could have chosen to go ahead and get the fire protective equipment. They could have chosen to wait for the Gadsden Fire Department to arrive. But they didn’t because they knew that lives were going to be lost in a matter of seconds. Seconds save lives. And they saved a lot of lives with what they’ve done.”
“You truly are heroes and you saved lives,” said County Commissioner Joey Statum. “And you put your life on the line. I just thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
Two additional Etowah County Detention Center employees, Richard Cox and Brittany Hamilton, were recognized at the Etowah County Commission meeting on December 5 for completing the Alabama Jail Training Academy through the Association of County Commissions of Alabama.