Police say they arrested two boys, ages 16 and 12, in connection with a fire that destroyed eight buildings in downtown Prophetstown, Illinois.
The fire was reported before dawn on Washington Street in the town’s business district. Firefighters said initial indications pointed to the blaze starting at Cindy Jean’s Restaurant.
Residents called the scene surreal, but were united in their gratitude that no lives were lost.
“I grew up seeing all of this, and now, it’s just gone. I used to walk up and down these streets, get pops at that pop machine over there… and it’s all gone,” said Tessa Bender, as she surveyed the damage Tuesday morning.
The day after the fire, police announced two arrests in the case.
“This morning at approximately 12:15 a.m. the two boys were transported to a juvenile detention facility in Galesburg, Illinois,” said a statement from Illinois State Police.
The arrests were the result of a joint investigation between Illinois State Police, the State Fire Marshall, the Whiteside County Sheriff’s Department and the Prophetstown Police Department.
Police Chief Mike Fisk said the ages of the boys made this case especially difficult.
“There are strong consequences. My heart tells me these kids probably didn’t mean to do this, but it just got out of hand. Now, it’s time for the consequences. It’s unfortunate,” said Fisk.
Dolores Francis was the owner of D’s Variety & Crafts, one of the eight buildings destroyed in the blaze. Francis lost her home and her business in the fire, and said she hoped the boys would face the consequences of their actions.
“I think it should be tough enough to make them realize what they did to us. They hurt us. They hurt the town. They should be made to pay,” said Francis.
Investigators were meeting with representatives of the Whiteside County State’s Attorney’s Office Tuesday to discuss possible formal charges.