County staff commended for response to Oct. 7 dryer vent fire

By Jennie ZeitlerStaff Writer

County Administrator Deb Gruber commended county staff members who were either on duty or responded to the recent dryer vent fire at the jail, saying that they “deserve to be given credit for a job well done.”

A dryer vent in the laundry room of the Morrison County Jail caught fire in the early morning Oct. 7, causing light damage.

Correctional officers reported smoke coming from the laundry room at about 8:30 a.m. They, along with Morrison County deputies, Little Falls police officers and Minnesota State Patrol officers assisted in getting inmates to a safe location in the jail, while Little Falls firefighters extinguished the fire.

The Sheriff’s Office reported smoke was present throughout the jail, and that it took more than two hours to vent out the facility. No injuries occurred and all inmates remained secure throughout the incident, the Sheriff’s Department said.

Gruber told the Board Tuesday that the following staff members were on duty at the time: dispatchers Jason Loscheider and Peggy Zimny, correctional officers Amy Brill, Dave Kicker and Dale Schraut.

Staff members who responded to the fire included correctional officers responding as volunteer Little Falls firefighters Jared Wiherski and Scott Mackissock, facility operators John Erdrich and Jeff Johnson and Sheriff Michel Wetzel and Jail Administrator Mike Monnier.

“Part of the business we do at the county is to respond in difficult or emergency situations,” Gruber said. “It happens every day and I think we do it well. It is different though, when the emergency is in your own house.

By the time Gruber got to the scene, approximately 45 minutes after the alarm sounded, all inmates were secured, the cleanup had already begun and a plan was in place to move forward.

“All officers on the scene, especially correctional officers and dispatchers, did an outstanding job of dealing with the fire, while simultaneously ensuring the safety and security of the inmates,” said Wetzel. “All the while, calls for service from the public continued to be received and responded to without interruption. I am very proud of how my officers dealt with this situation.”

“It is Fire Prevention Week,” Gruber said. “It isn’t necessarily good luck to be the example of where a fire incident has occurred, but what a great learning opportunity for everyone. I am appreciative of the quick response by the Little Falls Fire Department; we should all be grateful for the solid group of volunteers we have throughout the county. I was very impressed to see county employees step up and handle the incident with such efficiency and professionalism.”