Eugene Police Department officials announced Thursday morning the four juveniles responsible for Monday’s fire at Civic Stadium will be charged by the Eugene district attorney with second-degree arson.
Two of the four boys – one 10-year old and three 12-year olds – were arrested and lodged by Eugene Police on Wednesday night between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m.
The other two boys haven’t been arrested. EPD lead investigator on the case, Steve Williams, said they aren’t sure if the two boys, including the 10-year old, will be arrested.
“We’re still working on that part,” he said.
“Their introduction to the criminal justice system is designed to ensure that they have the greatest opportunity at a productive and constructive life ahead,” Eugene Police Chief Pete Kerns said. “We hope and wish that’s exactly what happens to them.”
The four boys don’t have any previous criminal history.
Eugene Fire Chief Randy Groves said that the investigation is still ongoing.
According to Williams, there were five boys at Civic Stadium. One boy, who was called home, left 15 to 20 minutes before the fire started. The unnamed boy told his parents, who tipped off police on Wednesday morning.
“The information provided matched what we had from the scene,” Williams said. “When we got to the other boys they gave us pretty much the same account.”
Williams said that the fire caused by the four boys began in the press box at Civic Stadium. According to Williams, the four boys used debris and a lighter, and no other accelerants, to light a small fire.
When asked by police investigators why they started the small fire, Williams said their response was, “I don’t know.”
“They were messing around, lighting some debris on fire and just being kids,” Williams said. “Not what kids should be doing, but it’s something that kids do.
“I don’t believe 10- and 12-year old boys were thinking they were going to burn down an entire building, but what they’re doing was lighting a small fire that was out of control.”
The boys tried to put the fire out, according to Williams, but the fire had spread to the walls of the press box. The boys then hopped on their bicycles and left the stadium.
“Fortunately they got out of there,” Williams said.
Williams said second-degree arson charges are different for juveniles than adults. He said that juvenile services has programs tailored to address kids with fire starting issues and that these kids will get proper treatment.
“Obviously they need to be in the system because of this incident,” Williams said. “Whether or not it’s a problem that stems beyond this specific incident, I don’t know yet. We’re still looking at that.”
Williams said that the parents of the four boys cooperated with the investigation. He also doesn’t know whether the parents of the children will be forced to help pay for damages.
Originally, fire investigators were held back from the scene because of part of the still-standing structure being a hazard for collapse and issues of asbestos in the construction materials. The investigation is still ongoing.
Forty emergency personnel responded to the scene at 5:27 p.m. on Monday, according to EPD spokesperson Melinda McLaughlin. The fire was contained by 7:02 p.m.
The next morning, the stadium was declared a total loss by Groves.
Civic Stadium, on 20th and Willamette Street, was built in 1938 in the midst of the Great Depression. It was home of the minor league baseball team, the Eugene Emeralds, from 1969-2009. When the team left the stadium, plans for the site ranged from proposals to build a new Fred Meyer to an extension of the YMCA.
In April of this year, the Eugene Civic Alliance raised $4.1 million to buy the stadium in hopes of renovating it for Kidsports and minor league soccer team, Lane United.
“The thing is, that’s still going to happen,” said Allan Benavides, a member of the Eugene Civic Alliance. “It’s just turned into a new project.”
Follow Joseph Hoyt on Twitter @JoeJHoyt