The Barron Police Department is still investigating an arson fire that broke out shortly before 4:30 p.m. Thursday, March 19, at the former Family Dollar store at the corner of Fifth Street and La Salle Avenue in downtown Barron.
Police Chief Joseph Vierkandt said Monday, March 23, that three juvenile suspects were briefly detained, and that charges will be referred to the District Attorney’s Office once the investigation is complete.
Vierkandt declined to identify the suspects, saying only that they live in the Barron vicinity and are students in the Barron Area School District.
“We would have requested that they be held in juvenile detention, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, (juvenile authorities in Eau Claire) could not take them,” he added. “Instead, they were turned over to their parents.”
Police were alerted by a witness who owns a business close to the vacant building, which is scheduled for demolition and is to become the site of a new Barron City Hall.
The witness “saw three juveniles in the area and was able to identify them,” Vierkandt said. “We had an officer make contact with the juveniles. He then went into the building and noticed smoke.”
According to Barron-Maple Grove Fire Chief Mike Romsos, there was thick, black smoke when firefighters entered the building, but they used a thermal imaging camera to locate the source of the fire and “put it out within a few minutes.”
“It was just a pile of rubbish in the middle of the floor,” Romsos said Tuesday, March 24. “Thanks to the camera, it didn’t take long to put the fire out.”
Vierkandt noted that the alleged arson took place on the first day after a statewide closure of schools.
“It’s unfortunate these children decided to do this,” he said.