Inmates charged in jail fire

Two men were indicted Friday on charges that they intentionally set a fire at the Wildwood Pretrial Correctional Facility and endangered the lives of 28 other inmates in the area. 

Travis Lee Mchone, of Sterling, and Richard Baker were charged with first degree arson, a Class A felony, after a fire was found in their shared cell Aug. 31 at about 9 p.m. The two also face 28 counts of reckless endangerment, and criminally negligent burning, both are class A misdemeanors.

A correctional officer at the facility was performing a security check when he saw Baker standing on the toilet potentially using a vent for fresh air. According to the affidavit, the officer saw smoke coming from the cell. 

Thinking the two were smoking cigarettes, the officer opened the door and either Mchone or Baker kicked a flaming bag under bed, according to the affidavit. 

Both McHone and Baker were separated and stripped searched; when no cigarettes were found the cell was searched and correctional officers saw a fire, according to the affidavit. 

The fire was put out and the officers found hair wax or gel inside a paper bag; inside of the cell there were burnt sheets, a burnt paper bag, a burnt playing card, a waxy material used as a wick and two inmate uniform shirts according to the affidavit. 

Jail officials were unable to speak about their actions during the fire. 

Richard Schmitz, special assistant for communications with the Alaska Department Corrections, said discussing jail protocol for fire response could jeopardize the security of the Wildwood facility.

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