2 arrested in former clock factory fire

Jan. 2, 2012 at 12:07 AM
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PERU, Ill., Jan. 2 (UPI) -- Two teenagers were charged Sunday with setting fire to the century-old Westclox building in Peru, Ill., authorities said.

Peru police Chief Doug Bernabei said Steven Gallagher, 17, of La Salle and a 15-year-old Peru boy each face a charge of aggravated arson in the blaze that was spotted about midnight Saturday, the La Salle News Tribune reported. One firefighter was injured during the effort to extinguish the fire.

The building that burned, one of three in the Westclox Co. complex, had been used as a factory until 1980. A group of investors that included Peru Mayor Donald Baker owned the building for 20 years until it was sold in 2006 to a group of Chicago investors who set about converting it into a retail and convention center.

The building became home to a number of businesses, including an upscale salon, a photo business, an environmental laboratory and light industrial operations, the newspaper said.

La Salle County prosecutor Brian Towne said the two youths are suspected of entering the building, pouring a can of gasoline they found inside on a boat stored there and igniting it.

The fire prompted authorities to evacuate nearby homes, the newspaper said.

Police were led to the youths by an anonymous caller, Towne said.

Gallagher's bond was set at $250,000 at a hearing in Ottawa Sunday and he will have another court hearing Thursday, Towne said. The 15-year-old was being held in juvenile detention in Ottawa and will have a hearing Tuesday, the prosecutor said.

Towne said additional charges are possible.

La Salle fire Chief Andy Bacidore said the injured firefighter, whose name wasn't released, sustained a broken leg and severed tendon.

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