WAPATO — A fire that forced the evacuation of the Wapato city jail Saturday was set by two female inmates, police said.
City officials previously said little about the fire, other than to describe damage as minimal. The facility’s 52 male inmates and 10 female prisoners were kept in an enclosed yard next to the jail for about 45 minutes until the building was cleared of smoke.
According to Yakima County Superior Court arrest affidavits released Monday, firefighters quickly pinpointed the source of the smoke to a “fully engulfed” mattress in the female housing unit.
Several of the female prisoners subsequently told police a 23-year-old female inmate set the fire at the instigation of an older inmate described as the unofficial “tank boss.” According to the court records, the prisoners said the older inmate believed she and fellow female prisoners would be released if there was sufficient damage to the unit.
The younger inmate is alleged to have lit a mattress on fire using a cigarette lighter and a combination of toilet paper, sanitary pads and liquid cleanser.
The witnesses said other female inmates quickly panicked once the fire started and activated an alarm.
Both suspects were taken to the Yakima County jail.
Bail was set at $500,000 each during a preliminary appearance in Superior Court on