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Update: 4 teens tied to cabin fire

The blaze gutted the 700-square-foot cabin, located on heavily wooded Department of Natural Resources property on the south bank of the Willow River. Photo by Randy Hanson

Four Hudson teenagers face charges of trespassing and criminal damage to property in connection with a fire that destroyed a cabin at 977 Trout Brook Road on Friday afternoon.

The teens are accused of breaking into the cabin, where they found and set off fireworks that started the blaze.

"All have admitted to it - given statements to their involvement in it," St. Croix County Sheriff Dennis Hillstead said Monday.

Hudson-area resident Kevin J. Miller and his son, Will, were driving home on Trout Brook Road at about 4 p.m. when they saw a plume of smoke rising from the cabin.

Miller said he turned around, parked and ran to the cabin to find the porch engulfed in flames.

The Millers checked the smoke-filled cabin for occupants and called 911 to report the fire.

At about the same time, according to Sheriff Hillstead, a neighbor to the cabin saw two teens running from the scene and detained them until a sheriff's deputy arrived.

The cabin belonging to Nancy B. Miller (no relation to Kevin Miller) is located in a heavily wooded area on the south bank of the Willow River in the town of Hudson.

Hillstead said the property is now owned by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, but Miller was allowed to continue to use her 700-square-foot cabin.

Miller, a Minneapolis resident, was in Florida when the fire occurred. She reportedly has since returned to the area.

Hillstead indicated that the sheriff's deputies who responded to the scene were able to quickly locate the teenage suspects. He said they were taken into custody, questioned, and released to their parents.

A 17-year-old male involved in the break-in could be charged as an adult, the sheriff said. He said the two other males and a female are all younger than 17.

Hillstead said it will be up to District Attorney Eric Johnson to decide whether to charge the 17-year-old as an adult.

The other teens will be referred to juvenile authorities, Hillstead said.

He said they all, at a minimum, face charges of criminal trespass and criminal damage to property.

"It doesn't appear that it was their intent to start the fire," the sheriff said.

According to their statements, one of the teens kicked in the front door to the cabin and they went inside, where they found the fireworks, Hillstead said.

He said they set off a variety of fireworks both inside the cabin and on the porch.

The teens' story is that one of the fireworks they thought had gone out reignited and started the porch on fire.

Kevin Miller said the Hudson Fire Department was on the scene quickly. The department also was able to bring the fire under control quickly, but not before it consumed the porch and gutted the interior of the cabin.

Most of the cabin is still standing, but with a charred frame, holes in the roof and broken-out windows.

The St. Joseph, Roberts and Lower St. Croix Valley fire departments assisted the Hudson department in responding to the blaze.

Tankers brought water to a portable tank that was set up on Trout Brook Road. From there, it was pumped a few hundred feet to the cabin.

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

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