HOBART | Three middle school students set fire to an abandoned house then bragged about it through photos taken at the scene, police said.
"They told police the reason they started the fire was for excitement," Hobart police Lt. David Grissom said.
The three youngsters, all from Hobart, were charged Friday with Class B felony arson through Lake County Juvenile Court.
The two girls charged are ages 13 and 12; the boy is 11.
Police declined to provide the names of the youngsters, noting they are juveniles.
Fire Chief Brian Taylor said the Hobart Fire Department was called to the blaze in the 200 block of South Colorado Street at 5 p.m. on June 3.
"We found the house, which is unoccupied, fully engulfed by the time we got there," Taylor said.
No injuries were reported, but the fire caused an estimated $50,000 in damages, Grissom said.
Neighbors told police they had seen the three youngsters in the area prior to and after the fire.
"But all three denied it after questioning them," Grissom said.
Police received a break in the case when the mother of the 12-year-old girl came to the department with a photo her daughter had taken of her 13-year-old friend starting the fire with a liquid accelerant.
"The kids were bragging about what they had done," Grissom said.
Officials were uncertain whether the youngsters had posted any of the photos on Facebook or other social media.
Dan Bateman, who lives with his mother near the site of the fire, said he saw the trio leave the area of the fire.
"The three returned when the fire truck pulled up to put the blaze out," Bateman said.
His mother, Helen Coleman, said she was fearful the fire wouldn't be contained and would spread to other nearby homes including hers.
"It was really burning," Coleman said.
Given the dry conditions, the fire could have spread quickly to other houses in the subdivision just north of Third Street, Taylor said.
"We were very fortunate we didn't have strong winds. The fire could have spread out of control and affected surrounding properties," Taylor said.