Inmates started fire at Rikers that injured several: COBA president

Queens

EAST ELMHURST, Queens — A fire at Rikers Island on Friday night that injured several people was no accident, officials said Saturday. The head of the correction officers’ union said inmates started the blaze after a guard was attacked.

Authorities were called to the Rikers Correctional Facility Infirmary around 8:15 p.m. in the East Elmhurst neighborhood, FDNY officials said.

The blaze occurred on the second floor of the seven-story building and was placed under control about an hour later, fire officials said.

Authorities said one inmate and two firefighters suffered minor injuries.

Three correction officers and two captains were treated at the hospital for smoke inhalation, according to Benny Boscio Jr., president of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association.

“Every individual has been accounted for. There was a small fire at a housing unit at the North Infirmary Command on Rikers Island, which caused heavy smoke conditions. FDNY responded,” a spokesperson for the Department of Correction said.

The correction officers’ union president is pointing the finger at the DOC and their “failure to hire more officers.”

Boscio said in a statement that it was inmates who started the fire.

“The fire was started late Friday evening after a correction officer was splashed in the face by an inmate,” he said. “The officer’s supervisor escorted him to the medical clinic to be treated for the splashing. While at the clinic, an inmate started a fire that spread rapidly and officers and supervisors immediately contacted the Fire Department to put out the fire,” he continued.

Boscio said the lack of correction officers has “turned our jails into ticking time bombs that will explode at any minute.”

The union head also took aim at DOC Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi.

“Commissioner Schiraldi’s mismanagement has put thousands of lives in jeopardy,” Boscio said.

Mayor-elect Eric Adams weighed in on the incident Saturday, as well.

“If an inmate can start a fire at Rikers, then we have truly lost control,” Adams said in a statement. “We need additional personnel and investments in infrastructure in addition to significantly more space and resources for mental health treatment—and we need it now.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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