Police say kids broke into attic, where fire set
Authorities think a fire that destroyed the Masonic Family Center in Crescent City on Friday night was started by a 12-year-old boy.
Crescent Masonic Lodge Master Stan Ridens in front of the burned-out building Monday. Del Norte Triplicate/Anthony Skeens
The boy, along with a 13-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl, had broken into the lodge and went up to the attic, where the fire was started, Police Chief Doug Plack said.
“They were in there creating mischief, there’s no doubt about it,” said Plack.
The 12-year-old boy found a lighter in one of the desks and lit a cardboard box on fire; it spread quickly, evolving into the fire that seven departments had to deal with until 2 p.m. the next day, Plack said.
The Police Department called in several officers to help control the crowd of more than 100 onlookers.
“There were adults standing on the curb, crying at the sight of all their memories and memorabilia, everything the Masons stood for over the years, being a victim of the flames,” said Plack.
Police Sgt. Erik Apperson and reserve office Keith Doyle were called in to investigate the fire and began questioning people seen coming from the area around the time it started, Plack said.
They were able to make an arrest later that night.
Plack said the parents of the children aided in the investigation.
While the other two children were not arrested, but the District Attorney’s Office can still bring charges against them, Plack said.
The fire destroyed memorabilia including journals, Bibles, tools dating back to the organization’s birth in 1853; it also disintegrated more modern documents, regalia, pictures, paintings of past public officials and members, historical documents from the lodge as well as the county, Crescent Masonic Master Stan Ridens said Monday looking at the rubble that remains.
Don Spiering, center wearing hat, at an installation ceremony in the building: “This fire destroyed 159 years of Masonic history.” Submitted
“I’m just hanging in there,” said Ridens, who is in his fourth term as a master since he began as a Mason in 1979.
The roof is collapsed, showing the charred remains of the insides. Windows are boarded up and doors are locked until the demolition of the building, said Don Spiering, secretary and a former master.
Insurance is expected to cover expenses, but that won’t bring back the heirlooms, he said.
“You can’t replace that stuff,” said Spiering. “It’s 160 years old.”
Spiering was stopping by Monday to take a trailer to Front Street, so the Masons’ sister organization, Job’s Daughters, could sell doughboys during the Fourth of July festivities.
Ridens and other Mason members were prepping for a tailgate meeting Monday night by sweeping up some of the debris and setting up a tent in the parking lot.
They will likely move quarters to the Mason chapter in Brookings, but have also received offers from local organizations such as the VFW for venues to hold their meetings, Ridens said, adding he was grateful for the support.