Smoke from cellblock fire takes a toll of 27 inmates

A mattress fire set by a prisoner in a padded Harrison County jail cell sent clouds of polyurethane smoke through the one-story building, killing 27 inmates and injuring at least 52 other people.

The flames were put out quickly. Officials said the inmates apparently died of smoke inhalation as the smoke was sucked into the air conditioning system and spread through the cellblock, which housed from 95 to 100 prisoners.

The Biloxi jail fire was similar to a mattress fire in June 1977 that killed 42 inmates and jail visitors in Tennessee - the worst jailhouse fire in the nation's history.

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