PROPHETSTOWN – Investigators said Tuesday that two brothers set fire to a recycling bin behind a Prophetstown restaurant, sparking the blaze early Monday that destroyed eight buildings, damaged two others, and left more than a half dozen people homeless.
A joint investigation led to the arrests Tuesday of the 16- and 12-year-old boys. Both were taken to the juvenile detention facility in Galesburg, Illinois State Police said in a news release.
The boys are from out of state and were staying with their father for the summer, ISP Master Sgt. Chris Endress said.
Prophetstown Police Chief Mike Fisk said information from the family tipped them off to the boys’ involvement.
“We had sources within the family that told us that they didn’t think something was right,” he said. “And that’s what kind of led us to interview the boys.”
The two had been doing some “door knocking and ringing” earlier in the night, Fisk said, and had sneaked out of the house, which is one of the factors that tipped off the family.
“I think it was the boys’ sneaking out and their attitude the following day and what was occurring,” he said. “Sometimes your guts are right.”
The boys set fire to the recycling bin behind Cindy Jean’s Restaurant; no accelerant was used, Endress said.
Fisk said the boys “presumably” used a lighter to start the fire, but he couldn’t be 100 percent sure.
Investigators met Tuesday with the Whiteside County state’s attorney to discuss formal charges, Endress said. A hearing is scheduled today in Whiteside County Court in Sterling.
No further details were released.
The fire erupted around 2:30 a.m. Monday in the 300 block of Washington Street, which is the town’s main street and the heart of its historic downtown business district.
The buildings were about 150 years old, and housed business such as Cindy Jean’s, D’s Variety Store, Twisted Scissors salon, Kim’s Monograms and the town’s Historical Society.
The joint investigation included the State Police, Prophetstown Police, the State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Whiteside County Sheriff’s Office.