Scoutmaster Chris Hagerty of Boy Scout Troop 413 said he’ll never get over the blaze just eight days ago that destroyed his troop’s longtime meeting hall, taking along with it decades’ worth of memorabilia, camping equipment and other gear.
But Monday afternoon, standing just steps from the debris of the wooden hall, Hagerty said he felt elated.
“We have closure now,” he said.
Arroyo Grande police on Monday announced they had arrested two teenagers in connection with the fire that burned down the hall and a small shed about 4:20 a.m. May 1.
Both were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy, arson, burglary and possession of stolen property, all felonies, police said. Investigators determined that an accelerant was used to burn the buildings at 490 E. Cherry Ave., Arroyo Grande police Chief Steve Annibali said at a news conference.
Caleb Joseph Pelletier, 18, was booked into San Luis Obispo County Jail on Monday. Police said he lives in Creston and was arrested at Cuesta College’s North County campus.
A 16-year-old boy was also arrested Monday at Arroyo Grande High School and taken to the county’s Juvenile Hall. He’s an Arroyo Grande resident but previously lived in the northern part of the county. He and Pelletier are friends, Annibali said.
Neither teen had any connection to Troop 413, and police are still investigating a motive, Annibali said. Police believe the 16-year-old was involved in vandalism at the same location April 26, in which some small fires were started inside the hall.
Annibali said the police investigation is continuing and additional arrests are possible. Police received a tip through San Luis Obispo County Crime Stoppers that led to the teens’ arrests.
Police recovered some items belonging to the Scouts, including a backpack, a hatchet with “Troop 413” clearly written on it and a carabiner (a lightweight, metal snap-link used by climbers). They also located a butane lighter allegedly used during the crime.
The hall had once served as a Japanese community center after it was constructed in the early 1930s.
“If my dad was here, he’d be crying,” said Mitsugi Fukuhara, 88. His father, Keisaku Fukuhara, had put up about $15,000 around 1935 for the hall to be built.
The Scout troop is inviting anyone who wants to share stories and bid farewell to the building to meet at the site at 5 p.m. Sunday. Unable to come up with a better term, Hagerty is calling it a wake.
Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCountyBeat on Twitter.