NAPA (CBS / BCN) — A Napa County Jail inmate suffered second- and third-degree burns Wednesday night when he set himself ablaze in a cell, fire and sheriff’s officials said.

It was unclear Wednesday night why the man lit himself on fire, but he was airlifted to the burn center at the University of California, Davis Medical Center with burns to his hands, arms, abdomen and legs, sheriff’s Sgt. Doug Pace said.

The man was undergoing surgery Wednesday night but was expected to survive, he said.

The incident began when the sheriff’s office received reports of a structure fire in the jail around 7:35 p.m., Pace said.

Corrections officers discovered it was actually an inmate who was on fire and were able to quickly extinguish the blaze, Napa City Fire Battalion Chief John Callanan said.

The man, who was jailed Sept. 14 on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon at Napa State Hospital, had wrapped himself in toilet paper and used a chord with a spark from a TV to ignite the toilet paper and light his clothes on fire, Callanan said.

The man was taken by ambulance to Queen of the Valley hospital in Napa before being flown to the UC Davis Medical Center, a county spokeswoman said.

The fire was contained to the man’s cell, but smoke from the blaze forced the evacuation of about 100 inmates from the third floor to other parts of the jail, spokeswoman Elizabeth Emmett said.

Although the inmates were quickly relocated, Pace said the scene inside the jail was chaotic.

“There was a ton of people there,” he said. “There was a ton of fire trucks. Napa State people were involved. Our people were involved. It’s crazy. You just don’t know what could happen.”

He said things were “just now kind of mellowing out” around 10:15 p.m. Detectives were still there talking to all of the inmates and witnesses, Pace said.

He said sheriff’s deputies accompanied the man to the UC Davis Medical Center for security reasons but were not able to interview him Wednesday night.

No other injuries were reported, and the structure did not sustain any damage.

Pace said it’s not clear if the man had a cellmate, but most inmates with psychiatric issues are housed by themselves.

He did not know what crime the man was accused of committing.

“If they commit a crime in Napa State Hospital, they end up going to the jail,” he said. “It’s a hot topic.”

The man has not been identified for privacy reasons, Emmett said.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News contributed to this report.)

Comments (9)
  1. Biker says:

    Maybe they shouldn’t have denied his request for an extra blanket. 🙂

  2. Hmmm.... says:

    “Hot topic”….interesting choice of words. It should be a disturbing topic considering this man is severely mentally ill and they throw him into a cell with no observation by mental health providers.

    1. jon says:

      the mass majority of the prison population has mental problems. the guy set himself on fire, I’m going out on a limb and gonna say he has some mental problems. Then again, he stabbed someone at napa state, which is a mental institution. What else are u gonna do with him, parole him to a half way house in ur neighborhood?

  3. brandywine3 says:

    To bad he survived.

  4. realistish says:

    too bad you’re alive to read about it

  5. donovan says:

    It’s too bad the taxpayers will have to pay for the surgery. Not only are taxpayers footing the bill for his incarceration, trial, but the idiot’s medical bills.

    I hope “realistish” can pay all the bills for this idiot.

    1. 10-8 says:

      Im with you on this! Should of died!!

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