Girl Charged in Fire that Destroyed Bloomington, Illinois Candy Factory

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (AP) -- A 16-year-old girl is charged with setting a massive fire last month that destroyed a vacant Bloomington candy factory.

The juvenile criminal damage to property charge alleges the girl caused more than $10,000 in damage by recklessly starting the May 25 fire at the shuttered Paul F. Beich Co. plant, McLean County assistant state's attorney Kim Campbell said Thursday.

Campbell declined to elaborate and would not say whether the girl is in custody or has a lawyer, citing laws intended to protect juveniles in criminal cases. The McLean County public defender's office declined comment on whether it is handling the case.

Bloomington police spokesman Duane Moss said two other girls, ages 15 and 14, were with the 16-year-old when the fire started. Campbell said they have not been charged, but that the investigation is continuing.

A Stanford man and his stepson were earlier charged with a burglary at the plant the day of the fire, but are not suspected in the blaze. One of the men was in the building taking copper wire and escaped when the fire broke out, police said.

Sugar-laden candymaking ingredients fueled the fire that destroyed the four-story plant, just months before it was scheduled to be demolished to clear the way for affordable single-family homes.

The blaze drew hundreds of onlookers as clouds of black smoke rose that were visible for up to 30 miles. A Bloomington fire fighter was hurt in the fire, but no other injuries were reported.

The 170,000-square-foot plant made candy from about 1900 to 1973, when production moved to a new facility. In its heyday, the plant manufactured the Beich Whiz bar, a chocolate-covered marshmallow confection that sold nationally from the 1930s to the 1950s.

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