Miners in Fayette County set fire to youth center

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

FAYETTE COUNTY, Tennessee – Three sources in Fayette County told WREG that Somerville Volunteer Firefighters were called to Wilder after a report of the fire at the Wilder Youth Development Center.

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

The incident happened on New Years weekend between Saturday evening and Sunday morning. WREG learned that the fire ignited the building’s sprinkler system, which quickly put out the fire. The state says the fire started from a faulty light fixture that landed on a bean bag chair.

The state responded below:

“On the night of January 1, young people from two dormitories at the Wilder Youth Development Center went through the emergency doors out of the dormitories and through the closed campus. At no point did any of the young people escape the campus fence, which was recently secured with additional razor wire. Private security guards, put in place in 2021 as an added security measure, patrolled outside the perimeter fence and in contact with Wilder’s management during the incident. Some of the young people also entered the school building. The youngster damaged property inside the school and the two dormitories. The Tennessee Highway Patrol responded quickly and helped get the youths back to their dorms and restore order. The Fayette County Fire Department also responded to a small fire inside the school caused by sparks from a faulty light fixture. There were no injuries to staff or young people. The soldiers maintained a presence on the campus and it has remained calm since the incident. Criminal charges are likely for the youths involved in the incident.

Velicia Brown lives near Wilder Youth Development, and she says she worries whenever she hears about issues at the center.

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

Wilder, who is home to violent juvenile delinquents, has made headlines after several reports of escapes, escape attempts and riots at the facility north of Somerville.

No injuries were reported and at the time sources were unaware of the fire damage to the facility’s school. However, signs have been posted alerting the public to job openings at Wilder.

Brown says it’s a sign that things could get better.

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

A school spokesperson said criminal charges would likely be laid against the children involved in the incident.

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