Juveniles face arson charges in Oct. 4 Portage fire

October 13, 2018

Two juveniles face arson and criminal trespass charges after an Oct. 4 fire damaged a vacant building at 2646 New Pinery Road.

Portage Fire Chief Clayton Simonson said a Portage police officer noticed a “small fire” inside the building, and did not enter before summoning the fire department.

The fire appeared to be arson, Simonson said, because “there was a pile of papers burning in the center of the room, and that didn’t start all by itself.”

Building owner Richard Lynn said it has been used as a warehouse for the last several years, but most of its contents had been removed in recent days, leaving only a container of documents that were due to be shredded. It was those documents that Lynn said were set on fire.

Lynn said a prospective tenant had toured the building in the period prior to the fire and a door may have been left unlocked. Lynn toured the 4,000-square-foot building after the fire and said he didn’t think it was seriously damaged.

Lynn said he’d seen social media posts of youths bragging about setting the fire and he told Fire Inspector Craig Ratz.

As a result of the arson investigation it was determined that the two juveniles also were involved with a third juvenile in a burglary in the 100 block of East Burns Street earlier during the same evening. All three juveniles were referred for charges of burglary and criminal damage as a result.

Portage Police and Fire departments were assisted by the Columbia County Department of Health and Human Services and the Columbia County District Attorney’s Office.

Columbia County property records list Richard Lynn’s wife, Jenny Yibin Lynn of Middleton, as the property’s purchaser on Feb. 27, 2012. The records show George and Glenda Johnson sold the structure for $300,000.

According to Richard Lynn, the property is zoned for neighborhood business, and the business that most recently occupied it was Johnson Mechanical Systems.

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