Authorities: Pheasant Run fire caused by teens who broke into shuttered resort
Four youths are facing charges in connection with the fire in May that destroyed large parts of the shuttered Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles.
The boys -- a 17-year-old from Carol Stream, a 15-year-old from Wheaton, a 15-year-old from Winfield and a 14-year-old from Carol Stream -- appeared with their parents Wednesday before DuPage County Judge Anthony Coco at the county courthouse in Wheaton.
The 17-year-old and the 15-year-old from Wheaton 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 Winfield boy and the 14-year-old have each been charged with two counts of criminal trespass to a building.
Prosecutors said the 17-year-old drove the other defendants -- his nephew and two cousins -- to the former resort at 4051 E. Main St. on May 21. When they were there, the 15-year-old from Wheaton set papers on fire in a bathtub around 4:24 p.m. A second fire also was started in another location.
The fire was reported at 4:41 p.m. The massive blaze sent plumes of smoke into the sky surrounding the closed resort and drew dozens of onlookers who stood along nearby roads to take in the scene.
Authorities said the fire destroyed the main lobby, Bourbon Street, and the A, B, and E wings of hotel rooms before being extinguished on May 22. Firefighters remained on the scene in the days after the blaze to put out hot spots.
"For days, 107 firefighters from 26 fire 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," DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin said in a news release, adding that the juveniles alleged actions went from misdemeanor trespassing and vandalism to more serious behavior. "Thankfully no one sustained serious injury while battling the fire allegedly set in this case."
The resort opened in 1963. It closed in March 2020 after attempts to auction off the property failed.
Since its closure, the building had been vandalized, according to St. Charles police. Videos posted on social media show graffiti spray-painted on the walls of the main building's Bourbon Street area, a New Orleans-themed space where guests could shop at boutiques or enjoy cocktails. Windows on the upper floors of the tower had also been broken.
Prosecutors said all four defendants had repeatedly gone to the property and broke into rooms. A few weeks before the fire, the Wheaton 15-year-old -- whom prosecutor Alyssa Rabulinski called "the most culpable" -- threw a bed and other items out an upper window of the tower.
He also made videos that would be posted on TikTok and Snapchat.
"The entire situation is unfortunate," St. Charles Mayor Lora Vitek said in a statement. "I am so thankful for our first responders who were quickly on the scene ... thankfully there were no injuries."
The 17-year-old and 15-year-old from Wheaton will remain in custody at a juvenile detention facility.
The other two boys were placed on home detention. They will have to wear GPS monitors. They can attend school, but otherwise have to be accompanied by a parent if they leave home.
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.
As of yet, there are no proposals to redevelop the main resort property.
A Mega Center exhibition hall on the property was sold in 2020. That building was torn down to make way for a car dealership.
The resort's golf course was sold to the DuPage Airport Authority in 2017. The agency then sold the land in 2021 to a company that plans to build industrial buildings.