Investigators Believe Youths, Bottle Rockets Started Fire in Vergennes

Investigators Believe Youths, Bottle Rockets Started Fire in Vergennes
By: Carly O'Keefe

VERGENNES, Ill. - Days after the fire, a pile of bricks that was the Vergennes post office and Bastien Seed Company still smolders.  Some folks in town are still a little hot about losing what were basically the only historic buildings in Vergennes.
"That was a pretty special spot for Vergennes.  It was kind of a landmark it had been here just as long as Vergennes had been," said Vergennes Fire Chief Randy Mathis.
Four kids between the ages of 11 and 13 admitted to investigators that they had been setting off bottle rockets into and around the area of the building where investigators believe the fire started.  Some folks in town say they had their suspicions the minute they saw flames that kids and fireworks were to blame.
"I heard something while I was watching TV, and I got up and saw some kids throwing fireworks at the dogs.  I ran them off, and they were gone several hours and then my wife woke up in the middle of the night and she ran them off again, and then there was the fire," said George Stuart who lives just down the street from the burnt buildings.
"I think we were all kids once, and done things we shouldn't have done. When it's 10 p.m. it's kids being kids. At 2 a.m. it's trouble," said Mathis. "The only thing I have a tough time swallowing is kids being out that late doing that kind of stuff."
Mathis said in addition to losing the historic buildings, three firefighters suffered injuries in battling the blaze Wednesday morning.  None of which would have happened he said if kids weren't given fireworks and free reign.     
"If you give your kids fireworks, they need to be supervised.  They definitely don't need to be running out around town setting the off anywhere and everywhere they want," said Mathis.
Fireworks are illegal in Illinois.  Jackson County State's Attorney Michael Wepsiec will review reports from the Illinois State Fire Marshal's Office and sheriff's deputies to determine what charges the youngsters may face.