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Authorities: Pheasant Run fire caused by teens who broke into shuttered resort

Flames and heavy smoke engulf several buildings at the former Pheasant Run Resort property in St. Charles on May 21, 2022.

Two youths have been charged with causing the fire in May that destroyed large parts of the shuttered Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles.

Two additional male juveniles have each been charged with trespassing at the resort. DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin and St. Charles Police Chief James Keegan announced the charges Wednesday.

According to authorities, the four juveniles illegally entered the property and two of the juveniles allegedly were involved in setting papers on fire at two separate locations. The two juveniles that had set the papers on fire then allegedly left the area without extinguishing the fire.

Charges were filed against the four juveniles on Monday. The following day, the two juveniles facing the more serious charges turned themselves into authorities to await their detention hearing.

The remaining two juveniles were notified of the charges against them and appeared in court Wednesday morning.

“The entire situation is unfortunate,” St. Charles Mayor Lora Vitek said in a statement following the announcement of the charges. “I am so thankful to our first responders who were quickly on the scene. Members of our fire department expertly fought the blaze and successfully contained the damage, which could have been so much worse. Thankfully there were no injuries. I am grateful to our neighboring municipalities that sent personnel and equipment to assist in bringing the fire under control. I appreciate the persistent work of our Police Department, which cooperated with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and the State Fire Marshal on the investigation that brought the matter to a swift conclusion. On behalf of the entire City Council, well done and thanks to you all.”

Each of the juveniles appeared at a detention hearing in DuPage County Wednesday morning with their parents, where DuPage County Judge Anthony Coco ordered that the two charged with starting the fire – one from Carol Stream and one from Wheaton – be detained, while the other two – one from Carol Stream and one from Winfield – be released to the custody of their parents on home detention.

The detained juveniles have each been charged with one felony count of arson, one felony count of burglary, one felony count of criminal damage to property and three misdemeanor counts of criminal trespass to a building. The two boys who were released to their parents’ custody have each been charged with two counts of criminal trespass to a building. The boys’ ages range from 14 to 17 years old.

At approximately 4:41 p.m. May 21, the St. Charles police and fire departments responded to the former Pheasant Run resort at 4051 E. Main St. following reports of a fire at the site. Upon their arrival, authorities found large sections of the resort engulfed in flames.

It took more than 100 firefighters from 26 fire departments to extinguish the blaze. The St. Charles police and fire departments, the State Fire Marshal and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives launched an investigation into the fire. Keegan thanked those all those involved in the investigation.

“These arrests are the direct result of the hard work, determination and collective efforts of members of the St. Charles police and fire departments, agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and The Office of the State Fire Marshal,” Keegan said. “Together, with assistance from DuPage County State’s Attorney Bob Berlin’s office, investigators tirelessly pieced together a solid criminal case, thereby holding those criminally responsible to answer for their conduct.”

The main lobby, Bourbon Street, and the A, B and E wings of the hotel rooms at Pheasant Run were destroyed in the fire. Crews were able to save the 16-story tower on the property along with a dairy barn that had housed a restaurant. A building that had housed a 320-seat amphitheater also was saved.

Because they are charged as juveniles, the judge ordered that their names not be published. That is a common practice in juvenile courts in Illinois.

St. Charles police and fire officials worked with the Illinois State Fire Marshal’s Office and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to investigate the cause of the fire.

“For days, 107 firefighters from 26 departments put their lives in danger to control and ultimately extinguish a massive fire that heavily damaged the former Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles,” Berlin said in a statement. “It is alleged that the actions of these juveniles progressed from misdemeanor trespassing and vandalism to much more serious and potentially deadly felony criminal charges. Thankfully, no one sustained serious injury while battling the fire allegedly set in this case. The investigation into what happened at Pheasant Run was extremely thorough and I commend the St. Charles police and fire departments along with the State Fire Marshal and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for their painstaking and collaborative efforts which allowed us to file today’s charges. I also thank Assistant State’s Attorneys Helen Kapas, Alyssa Rabulinski and Nick Catizone for their outstanding efforts the past two months on this case.”

The iconic resort, which first opened in February 1963, closed in March 2020 after a failed attempt to auction the resort. GSI Family Investments of Arizona purchased the Pheasant Run Resort golf course from the DuPage Airport Authority for about $11.3 million and has proposed to build four industrial buildings encompassing more than 1 million square feet of space along with 13 acres of stormwater detention.

The 84.6-acre golf course is south of the former Pheasant Run Resort buildings, adjacent to DuPage Airport. McGrath Honda is redeveloping the former Pheasant Run Mega Center adjacent to the property.

The next court appearance for the two detained juveniles is scheduled for Aug. 1 in front of Judge Coco. The next court appearance for the remaining two juveniles is scheduled for Aug. 10, also in front of Judge Coco.