Fayette County miners set fire to youth center

REMARK: This story has been updated with new information and a state response.

FAYETTE COUNTY, Tennessee — Three Fayette County sources told WREG that volunteer firefighters from Somerville were called to Wilder after a fire report at the Wilder Youth Development Center.

A spokesperson said the miners broke through the emergency doors and damaged property inside the school and two dormitories.

The incident happened over the New Year weekend between Saturday evening and Sunday morning. WREG was notified that the fire had ignited the building’s sprinkler system, which quickly brought the fire under control. The state says the fire started from a faulty light fixture that landed on a beanbag chair.

The state provided a response below:

“On the night of January 1, young people from two dormitories at the Wilder Youth Development Center walked through the emergency doors out of the dorms and through the closed campus. At no time have any of the youths escaped the campus perimeter fence, which was recently secured with additional barbed wire. Private security guards, introduced in 2021 as an additional security measure, were patrolling outside the perimeter fence and in contact with Wilder executives during the incident. Some of the young people also entered the school building. The youth damaged property inside the school and the two dormitories. The Tennessee Highway Patrol responded quickly and helped get the youths back to their sleeping quarters and restore order. The Fayette County Fire Department also responded to a small fire inside the school caused by sparks from a malfunctioning light fixture. No staff or youth were injured. Soldiers have maintained a presence on campus and calm has remained since the incident. Criminal charges are likely to be brought against the youths involved in the incident.

Velicia Brown lives near Wilder Youth Development and says she gets worried whenever she hears about problems at the centre.

“All I can say is these kids are really out of control,” she said. “This generation is really out of control.”

Wilder, who houses violent juvenile offenders, made headlines after several reports of escapes, attempted escapes and riots at the facility north of Somerville.

No injuries were reported and at the time sources did not know how much fire damage had been caused to the school at the facility. However, signs were posted to alert the public to job openings at Wilder.

Brown says it’s a sign things could be looking up.

“We actually need people who are going to actually put their foot down, help them and motivate these kids to do better, and that way they won’t be around anymore,” she said.

A school spokesperson said criminal charges were likely to be brought against the children involved in the incident.

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