CATLETTSBURG First responders stampeded to the Boyd County jail Saturday night after 10 maximum security inmates allegedly incited a riot, fought off two guards then started a fire that severely damaged the inside of the jail and forced a widespread evacuation.

No serious injuries to jail staff, first responders or inmates were reported, said Boyd Sheriff Bobby Jack Woods.

Law enforcement officials were not certain how the inmates obtained fire as of Sunday morning. The Kentucky State Police is leading the criminal investigation. The 10 inmates are considered among the most violent of the population. All are facing serious charges, including murder, attempted murder, robbery and assault.

The detainees allegedly attacked jail deputies around 11 p.m. inside a max security cell, forcing them to retreat and seek reinforcements.

The inmates forced their way out of the cell, but were still contained in a secure hallway. They then put “blankets, mail, toilet paper and other flammable items against both entry doors and set them on fire” according to the jail.  

Boyd 911 dispatchers received calls from the jail on Saturday around 11:30 p.m. Woods said the initial call he received indicated that between 20 and 40 inmates were “trying to take over.”

More than 150 first responders from Ashland, Catlettsburg, the Kentucky State Police, Boyd County, Greenup County, Grayson were dispatched to the scene. The fires were extinguished and deputy jailers were able to corral the inmates. The heavy smoke forced the jail to evacuate inmates to the recreation yard.

Outside, police cars, ambulances and fire trucks lit the shadowy streets with flashing red and blue lights. Dozens of sleepy-eyed Catlettsburg residents watched nervously from nearby sidewalks while children on bicycles rubbernecked as they rode past the scene.


Diane Maynard (right) speaks with her friend in downtown Catlettsburg. Maynard said her son is an inmate of the jail and she's worried about his safety.

Some bystanders were frantic, looking for answers from law enforcement about their loved ones who either work in the jail or reside in it. Diane Maynard lives on Main Street and said her son is an inmate in the substance abuse program. “I thought people were dying when I heard all the noise,” said Maynard. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

Around 12:30 a.m., a jail employee, Aaron Fitchpatrick, emerged from the building and wrapped his arms around his worried mother, who’d marched over to a large group of law enforcement officers to ask about her son. By that time, the fire was already extinguished, but emergency crews were still assessing damages and ensuring no inmates had escaped.  

The inmates who allegedly started the fire along with 18 others from maximum security were escorted from the jail to the adjacent Boyd Courthouse Annex. Heavily armed law enforcement officers stood guard with a K-9 unit while the shackled inmates paced the room or sat at a table.

Some of the inmates screamed profanities about Jailer Joe Burchett and told The Daily Independent the fire was set in response to poor living conditions in recent days, including a lack of water. The jail denied the inmates’ claim in its news release posted at 10 a.m. Sunday. The jail said initial news reports about the incidents stated that inmates “had been without water and electricity for several days, which is not true.”

“Electricity was never interrupted and water was only off for about 2 hours prior to the riot incident due to an inmate damaging a sprinkler head, which caused substantial water damage to facility control systems,” the release continued.

It’s unclear to which news reports the jail was alluding. At no point did The Daily Independent state that the inmates went without water or electricity for several days. The newspaper only reported that the inmates said the fire was set in response to poor living conditions, including a lack of water, and the claim could not be verified overnight.

The damage caused by the fire led jail officials to lock down the building. About 70 inmates were transferred to a new location by Elliott County prison officials around 5 a.m. to the Little Sandy Correctional Complex, Carter County Detention Center and Pike County Detention Center.

The jail is working to “further reduce” its population “so a full assessment of the damage from both the fire and water can be completed,” per the release.

The jail will not accept new Boyd County inmates until further notice. All four law enforcement agencies in Boyd County will transport their ensuing arrestees to the Greenup County Detention Center.  

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