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Fire burns in old bottling plant

Three juveniles face arson charges for allegedly starting trash fire

Three young boys allegedly started a garbage fire Monday afternoon in the old bottling plant next to the former Gebhard Brewery on West Washington Street.

The three juveniles were taken into custody and cited with arson and criminal trespass, Assistant Police Chief Harvey Van Cleave said today.

The three were transported to River Valley Juvenile Center in Joliet, where they were being held.

The Morris Fire Protection and Ambulance District received a structure fire call at about 4:17 p.m. Monday, said Tracey Steffes, assistant fire chief. The cause of the fire was “suspicious,” he said at the scene, noting it was being investigated by Morris police.

The fire was on the first floor and appears to have been a rubbish fire, Steffes said. No one was injured and damage estimates were not available Monday.

Megan and Joe Ochoa were moving out of their apartment on the same street when their neighbor alerted them to smoke coming out of the building. Megan Ochoa then called 9-1-1.

“We saw two kids run out of the building and into the field,” Megan said.

As the boys ran, she said, her husband altered the police officers on scene.

Dr. Ben Johnston owns the building and said he did not yet have an estimate of damage.

“I’m glad no one was hurt and I’m glad the kids weren’t injured,” he said.

“The fire department always does a great job. We’re lucky to have a fire department that responds like that.”

Johnston said he had not done any major remodeling in the building, just some clean up work and other work to keep it from decaying. He said he has kept the building locked up, but there has been problems with trespassers.

There are no immediate plans for the vacant building, Johnston said. He has tossed around some ideas, such as a small restaurant, but as of right now, he’s waiting on the market to pick back up.

“Right now, it needs to be protected to keep it from decaying,” he said.

Johnston does not own the old brewery that towers next to his building. The brewery was not damaged by the fire.

Morris fire department was assisted by Coal City, Minooka, Channahon, Mazon, Lisbon and Troy fire departments.

Herald Writer Jo Ann Hustis contributed to this report.

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