Arson damages historic Illinois clock factory, teens held

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 01, 2012 3:23 PM
Arson damages historic Illinois clock factory, teens held

By Mary Wisniewski

CHICAGO (Reuters) - An arson fire set on New Year's Eve badly damaged an historic former clock factory in Illinois, and two teenagers were arrested and accused of setting the more than 100-year-old building alight, officials said on Sunday.

The fire, which fire officials said was now under control, started just before midnight on New Year's Eve at the former Westclox complex in Peru, Illinois, a town of about 10,000 located 100 miles southwest of Chicago.

The factory complex covers a few blocks, and while clocks are no longer made there, it now houses several small businesses, including a salon and a photography business, Police Department dispatcher Christie DeGroot said. The brick factory building is more than 100 years old, DeGroot said.

The fire took out the center of the building, but left the exterior walls standing, Fire Department Engineer Matt McLaughlin said, adding that there were still "a few hot spots" in the building on Sunday afternoon.

A 15-year-old and a 17-year-old, both male and from the area, have been charged with aggravated arson, DeGroot said. The 17-year-old was charged as an adult, and both are in custody, DeGroot said. Details of how the fire was set have not been disclosed.

A firefighter was injured in the leg while fighting the blaze and was sent to a local hospital, McLaughlin said.

Peru police evacuated residents from several blocks around the fire, but by Sunday afternoon occupants in all but two neighboring houses had been allowed to go home. Residents of the last two buildings would not be allowed to return until Monday, DeGroot said.

(Writing and reporting by Mary Wisniewski, Editing by Cynthia Johnston)