STUART, Iowa — Police say they have identified the person responsible for the fire that destroyed the Stuart Sale Barn on Sunday.
By assessing evidence at the scene, the Stuart Police Department determined that a juvenile entered the barn prior to the fire and used a cigarette lighter to ignite a bale of hay.
The juvenile reportedly attempted to extinguish the fire but was unsuccessful. Police say evidence and speaking with witnesses and the suspect helped authorities come to their conclusion.
The juvenile has been identified and is cooperating with officers, Stuart police said.
The suspect will be referred to juvenile court for charges, and the suspect’s identity will not be released because of his or her age.
The fire started in the back of the barn, at 523 Front St., in a pen that held the livestock about 6:45 p.m. The heavy winds helped push the fire toward the building.
Stuart residents were heartbroken by the fire.
“It was devastating, you think about where do you go from here?” said Sarah Gomez, the owner’s niece. “What do we do now? What do we do now every other Saturday night when it was sale night? The Sale Barn was a community of its own and it’s just heartbreaking.”
Fire departments from several surrounding communities were called in to assist the Stuart Fire Department. The Iowa State Fire Marshall’s Office was asked to help in the investigation.