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Tennessee Prison Fire #49230

ABC Evening News for Monday, Jun 27, 1977
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(Studio) Tennessee officials will bring arson charges, with others pending, against juvenile, in Columbia, Tennessee, prison fire. 42 died at Maury Cnty. jail, mostly from smoke inhalation.
REPORTER: Harry Reasoner

(Columbia, Tennessee) Speculation is that juvenile started fire by setting padding in cell afire with cigarette or match possibly obtained from prison visitor. Padding of this type used in other prisons in Tennessee and perhaps elswhere. [Dist. attorney general Robert GAY - says material was purchased with understanding that it was nonflammable.] Tests had been made on padding, but had raised questions. [State division of fire prevention spokesperson Tom COPELAND - says test results were good, but it's now found tests weren't appropriate.]

(NYC) Reporter notes 1973 "Closeup" documentary on fire. (Film shown.) Plastic foam used in tests for documentary and as used in Tennessee prison is consumed in moments, with dense black smoke and highly flammable gases; only apparent difference in tests and prison situation is that foam at prison covered with thin layer of polyvinylchloride. After documentary, most major building codes were toughened, to require plastic foam to be protected by fireproof covering. Experts say new regulations needed on content of furniture and interiors.
REPORTER: Jules Bergman

Bergman, Jules;
Hume, Brit;
Reasoner, Harry

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