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Police: 4 boys implicated in stadium fire

EUGENE — Four young boys will be charged in the fire that destroyed this Willamette Valley city's historic Civic Stadium earlier this week, police said late Wednesday.

Police arson investigators got a tip Wednesday that led them to the Eugene boys, ages 10 to 12, "who were involved in the fire," police spokeswoman Melinda McLaughlin said in a statement. Information about specific charges will be provided Thursday, she said.

The Monday evening fire was not related to fireworks, police said.

Eugene fire and police officials said earlier that three or four young people had been seen in the stadium press box shortly before the fire started.

Eugene arson detectives have been working with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, as well as state police and the local fire marshal on the investigation, which continues.

Officials detained the four boys after investigators got the tip, McLaughlin told the Register-Guard newspaper. She said she did not have additional information about the tip or who provided it. It was not clear late Wednesday whether the boys were released to their parents or were in custody.

A large backhoe was brought to the site Wednesday to help investigators sift through the rubble.

The spectacular fire sent flames shooting twice the height of the structure and prompted the temporary evacuation of a two-block area, officials said. Smoke was visible throughout the city, which is about 100 miles south of Portland.

The stadium was approved by voters in 1938 during the Great Depression and opened that same year. Labor was provided by the Works Progress Administration, and materials were donated by lumbermen in the area. The Eugene Emeralds, a minor league team, had been a long-time tenant, but vacated in 2009.

The Eugene Civic Alliance recently bought the property and co-founder Derek Johnson said the group has a $3 million insurance policy on the grandstand.

Beth Wirth, left, pulls her sons Emmett, 2, and Anderson, 5, in a wagon during a visit to the still smoldering Civic Stadium in Eugene. AP PHOTO.