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Bedford Co. Inmate Uses Hair Gel to Spark Blaze

Posted at 4:55 PM, May 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-17 19:32:56-04

A Bedford County jail inmate faced additional charges after deputies claimed he started a fire in his own jail cell.

Monday afternoon, 19-year-old Fredrick Buford used toilet paper and hair-gel to create a makeshift candle, Sheriff Austin Swing said. Buford then allegedly used a lighter to spark a flame used to burn the window.

Nearby correctional officers noticed the fire and immediately called firefighters. The blaze was quickly put out.

"This could have been a catastrophe, it really could have, not only for the inmates but for the corrections officers," Sheriff Swing said. 

Prisoners are banned from using lighters inside the jail. 

Swing said the lighter was flushed down the toilet before correctional officers could retrieve it. He said he doesn't know how the lighter made its way into the jail. He blames overcrowding. 

"When you have 4 or 5 correction officers guarding 150 to 200 prisoners, it makes it that much easier to enable them to slip stuff in," Swing claimed.

The Bedford County jail has had multiple incidents over the last year. It has also failed recent jail inspections. In March, county commissioners set aside $30,000 to make quick repairs. 

One of the incidents in March included the discovery of a homemade water-power tattoo gun. Buford was one of the seven inmates charged.

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Swing said it's not enough.

"It's just the perfect storm," he added. "Unfortunately our woes are going to continue."

The jail was built in the 1970s and was supposed to house fewer than 80 prisoners. It not holds as many as 200 inmates.