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Firefighters from Milton and Mosgiel spent 90 minutes at the Otago Corrections Facility at Milburn yesterday after a prisoner set off the fire alarm.
Prison manager Jack Harrison said three prisoners in three separate cells damaged property in their cells, rendering the cells unusable.
One of the prisoners set a toilet roll on fire, triggering the prison fire alarm.
"The fire was extinguished by staff before the Fire Service arrived at the prison," Mr Harrison said.
The incident had "nuisance value", as the cells were unusable until damage was repaired, he said.
The police were notified, and the prisoners would be charged with wilful damage.
"We are seeking damages through the police and courts for the damage caused to taxpayer property."
There was no fire damage to the cells nor were any injuries sustained, he said.
The Fire Service was called to the site an average of once a month, Mr Harrison said.
"There can be any number of reasons the fire alarms are activated, and it's hard-wired to the fire brigade."
Once the alarm had been activated, even if staff knew it was a minor incident, the Fire Service arrived, he said.
The use of lighters or matches to cause vandalism or disturbances would be reduced once the prisoner smoking ban took effect, and lighters and matches became contraband, he said.