JAMESTOWN – Work to cleanup the site of a massive fire that destroyed a former factory in Jamestown is now underway, this after two teens are facing arson charges for allegedly setting the blaze.
Jamestown Police Captain Robert Samuelson says security camera footage captured two juvenile suspects, 14 and 15-year-old girls, entering the former Jamestown Royal Factory on Crescent Street Friday evening prior to the fire.
“We were able to obtain some additional video from the rear of the building where the fire was started and they were able to observe the two juveniles actually enter into the building and then exit soon after the fire started,” said Samuelson. “Through the use of the video we were able to have some of our officers assist with identifying the youth through their work at the schools and also some administrators from the Jamestown Public School system also assisted.”
After their arrest, he says the youths were interviewed and released to a parent. They will face charges of second-degree arson in Chautauqua County Family Court.
The teens were not the first to break into the building since in recent memory, according to neighbor Wilam Wisner who tells us that the structure was home to vagrancy after owner Peter Johnson packed up his operation.
“He had a very big issue with vagrancy, which over the years, I noticed as the years progressed got worse and worse and worse,” says Wisner. “I placed multiple phone calls myself to Jamestown Police Department as well, there were several different fire calls dispatched because there was smoke coming out of the factory. I do know that the factory was in complete and total disrepair.”
Winser says he now plans to sue Johnson for damage the fire caused to his nearby property, this after Johnson says he did not have insurance.
“Well, we’re an LLC and we have no insurance, but I suggest you call your insurance company, that’s the first thing you should do and then let the insurance company sue the LLC,” says Johnson.
The lack of insurance, will likely be a problem for the city too, with Director of Development Crystal Surdyk assuring residents that her office will follow all legal requirements and procedures to recoup funds used to clean up the property.
“Our goal is to try to recover as much of the damages as we possibly can,” says Surdyk. “And so we’ll work to do that.”
As for what’s next, she says a demolition crew will assess the site.
“They’ll determine when it’s time to start wrapping the site with the poly-cover. Then after that it will sit for 10 days,” said Surdyk. “We’ll continue to monitor the site to make sure the fence is still in place and no one has entered the site.”
As for Johnson’s involvement, he expects the city to do most the the heavy lifting.
“They’ll level it off and that’ll be it,” explains Johnson. “I mean I’m gone, ya know?”
With a large fire like what residents saw last week, Deputy Fire Chief Matthew Coon says the department does their best to plan for an incident like this.
“The buildings have been around for many years and it’s been something the fire department has been certainly aware of with the large buildings that we have,” says Coon. “We do have limited staff, so we do have recall procedures in place to try to address that. If we do have a large incident where we can recall our own personnel, plus use the county mutual aid system to get additional resources to us as we need that.”
He says the efforts of multiple departments in the city were critical to the speedy investigation and planned clean-up of the site. As for the teens charged, Police Captain Samuelson says.
“The juvenile justice system will take over from here and hopefully things will work out for these suspects down the road,” said Samuelson.