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Three youngsters charged with setting fire at Massena’s former First Baptist Church

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MASSENA - Village police have charged three juveniles with starting a fire Saturday inside the former First Baptist Church, 93 Main St.

Police charged two brothers, ages 11 and 9, and a 12-year-old acquaintance were charged Thursday night with fifth-degree arson, fourth-degree criminal mischief and third-degree criminal trespass.

Their cases have been turned over to the probation department for possible petitioning to St. Lawrence County Family Court.

Police said their investigation revealed the juveniles had been using the abandoned church as a clubhouse for approximately two weeks before last Saturday’s fire.

They reportedly found a microwave and a fire started when they decided to use the oven as a fire pit, starting a fire with paper and then adding an empty can of glue and other items they found inside the church.

The juveniles fled the building after they were unable to extinguish the microwave by dousing it with a couple cups of water and then smothering it with carpeting.

One of the juveniles told police one of the boys had said to run and suggested that they were basically doing the place a favor because it was being torn down.

Ptl. Travis P. MacDonald, working with a description provided by a witness, located the three youths swimming in the Grasse River off Riverside Parkway a short time after the fire was reported.

Massena firefighters had responded to a call at the former Baptist church at 98 Main St., at the corner of East Orvis Street in downtown Massena, shortly after 5 p.m. Saturday.

Crews encountered heavy smoke and found the fire in the middle of the church floor on a carpeted area, Massena Volunteer Fire Department Chief Thomas C. Miller said.

“The guys did an outstanding job and had a really quick knockdown,” Mr. Miller said. “We got it put out with minimal damage.”

The brick structure held its last church services five years ago and the building is slated for demolition.

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