Three youths facing charges in connection with Orange mill fire

  • The buildings at 58 and 50 South Main St. were damaged during the mill fire on West Main Street in Orange on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/Paul Franz

  • The former cereal factory at 16-36 West River St. is now a pile of bricks and charred timbers in Orange after the Saturday fire. STAFF PHOTO/Paul Franz

  • The former cereal factory at 16-36 West River St. is now a pile of bricks and charred timbers in Orange after the Saturday fire. STAFF PHOTO/Paul Franz

  • Cleanup in progress 16-36 West River St. in Orange on Sunday, the day after a fire destroyed the former cereal factory. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Cleanup in progress 16-36 West River St. in Orange on Sunday, the day after a fire destroyed the former cereal factory. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Cleanup in progress 16-36 West River St. in Orange on Sunday, the day after a fire destroyed the former cereal factory. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Cleanup in progress 16-36 West River St. in Orange on Sunday, the day after a fire destroyed the former cereal factory. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Cleanup in progress 16-36 West River St. in Orange on Sunday, the day after a fire destroyed the former cereal factory. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Cleanup in progress 16-36 West River St. in Orange on Sunday, the day after a fire destroyed the former cereal factory. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Firefighters work to quell the fire at 16-36 West River St. in Orange on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/Bella Levavi

  • Firefighters work to quell the fire at 16-36 West River St. in Orange on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/Bella Levavi

  • Firefighters work to quell the fire at 16-36 West River St. in Orange on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/Bella Levavi

  • Firefighters work to quell the fire at 16-36 West River St. in Orange on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/Bella Levavi

  • Firefighters work to quell the fire at 16-36 West River St. in Orange on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/Bella Levavi

Staff Writer
Published: 6/7/2022 6:09:01 PM
Modified: 6/8/2022 9:21:52 AM

ORANGE — Three juveniles are facing criminal charges in connection with the fire that destroyed the former cereal factory at 16-36 West River St. and damaged surrounding buildings on Saturday, with Orange Police Chief James Sullivan citing video evidence from security cameras as contributions to the ongoing investigation.

According to the state Department of Fire Services, the youths — whose ages range between 12 and 14 — were identified late Monday during the ongoing investigation. Their names are not being released due to their age.

The three youths will be summonsed to court on “arson-related delinquency charges.” An arraignment date has been determined yet.

Jake Wark, spokesperson for the Department of Fire Services, and Laurie Loisel, director of communication and outreach with the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office, declined to comment further regarding specific charges, evidence or information related to the suspects.

While he couldn’t single it out as evidence that primarily led to the charges, Sullivan cited “area video” as a consideration in the investigation.

“I know that there was a lot of investigation that was going on since the day of the fire,” he said Tuesday.

According to the Department of Fire Services, juvenile fire-setting contributes to dozens of fires in Massachusetts each year. About half of these fires are started using smoking materials such as matches and lighters. Officials involved with the Orange case urge parents and caregivers to keep these items away from children and explain the dangers of fire.

The fire was first reported at 11:45 a.m. on Saturday, according to the Orange Fire Department. Upon arrival, firefighters found heavy smoke and flames at the vacant mill building and four others in the area. Sullivan said that in addition to the collapsed cereal factory, vacant buildings at 58 and 50 South Main St. also sustained damage. Across the street, the vacant former blacksmith shop near 24 East River St. was entirely lost to fire and had to be demolished.

The response from regional fire departments was equivalent to a six- or seven-alarm fire, according to Orange Fire Chief James Young, and dozens of departments assisted at the scene or provided station coverage.

“I would again like to thank the residents of Orange and our surrounding towns for their support,” Young said in a statement. “I’d also like to express our gratitude for the tremendous mutual aid response by our brother and sister firefighters from across the region and the state.”

There were no firefighter injuries, but two civilians suffered minor burns. They did not need to be hospitalized.

The state’s Fire Mobilization Plan was also activated, bringing in task forces from across the state. In addition to regional resources, the Department of Fire Services deployed two rehab units, an incident support unit to assist commanders, a drone unit to obtain aerial imagery of the structures, and a Hazmat team to monitor air quality. The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency and Department of Environmental Protection also responded.

According to the Department of Fire Services, the fire is being jointly investigated by the Orange Fire Department, the Orange Police Department, the State Police Fire and Explosion Investigation Unit assigned to the State Fire Marshal’s Office, and the State Police Detective Unit assigned to the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or jmendoza@recorder.com.


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