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Fire damages downtown Platteville building
Two arrested on meth charges
Kerry M. King - photo by Grant County Sheriffs Office

Two people have been arrested in connection with an early Monday morning fire that damaged a downtown Platteville building, including seven apartments.

Kerry M. King, 22, Platteville, was charged with maintaining a drug trafficking place and purchasing pseudoephedrine products on behalf of another, both felonies.

James M. Youngblood, 23, Platteville, was charged with manufacture of up to 3 grams of methamphetamine, a felony, and a misdemeanor charge of neglecting a child.

King was arrested Monday on an unrelated outstanding warrant for not paying a $263.50 fine for a citation for mistreatment of animals, issued Dec. 21, according to court records.

King and Youngblood made their first appearances in Grant County Circuit Court this morning, where bond was set at $1,000 cash for Youngblood. A preliminary hearing for both is scheduled for Thursday, June 9 at 3 p.m. Youngblood faces up to 13 years 3 months in prison and $35,000 in fines, and King faces up to seven years in prison and $20,000 in fines, if convicted.

The cause of the fire at 42 W. Main St., where King and Youngblood lived according to court records, hasn’t been officially determined, but state investigators spent Monday afternoon investigating the building’s second-floor apartment 2, where the fire originated, and a meth cleanup crew was called to clean up the apartment.

Six of the seven apartments on the building’s second and third floors were occupied, but all of the residents, including three children, were evacuated by the time firefighters arrived, with no injuries.

Platteville firefighters were called around 3:55 a.m. for a report of smoke coming from the roof of the building. Flames as high as 30 feet above the building could be seen.

“Those older buildings on Main Street are always difficult, just for the times renovations have been done, to the multiple additions — they’ll build a wall over an old wall or brick — so they’re always challenging,” said Fire Chief Ryan Simmons. “That building had very good access for us; we had access from the front, we had access from the back, and we had some access to the east side behind Erschen’s [Florist] building.

“We kept the most damage to one apartment, a little bit to the apartment above it, and a little bit to the apartment at Erschen’s.”

The apartment where the fire originated is one of four on the second floor, on the east-northeast corner of the building. Three apartments are on the third floor of the building.

When firefighters got to apartment 2, it had “a lot of precursor materials used for making methamphetamine,” as well as some methamphetamine, said Simmons. “It did spread relatively quickly in that apartment.”

However, Simmons said whether those materials caused the fire can’t be determined yet.

“There was quite a bit of damage in that apartment,” he said. “There wasn’t enough left of anything to pinpoint exactly” the cause.

In addition to the seven apartments, the building — which according to city records is owned by Can Zhang and Jin Lin of Platteville — houses Exclusive Body Art at 40 W. Main St. and the former Gabby’s Gyros & Sweets at 50 W. Main St. Simmons said the tattoo parlor had water damage, and the restaurant had smoke damage.

Exclusive Body Art’s Facebook page said Monday it will be “closed until further notice” but “will be back soon.” Gabby’s has been closed since mid-May.

Lancaster and Cuba City firefighters were called about 20 minutes after the first alarm for assistance. Southwest Health EMS also assisted at the scene.

After the fire was contained, smoke could be seen coming from the rear of the building for several hours afterward.

Firefighters were on the scene for about 12 hours. Main Street from Court Street to Fourth Street was closed Monday until mid-afternoon.

Investigators from the state Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation were at the scene Monday afternoon, including a state fire marshal and an investigator of the materials in apartment 2.

Glen Bahr, owner of the building at 10 W. Main St. that houses Erschen’s Florist and the Midwest Floral Design School, said one of the Bahrs’ two second-floor apartments had minor damage, the second-floor deck had extensive damage, and there was no damage to the store. A tenant in the second-floor apartment was just beginning to move in, he said.

“The Fire Department did an amazing job stopping it when they did,” said Bahr.

American Red Cross Disaster Action Team volunteers assisted “several adults and three children” after the fire, according to a Red Cross news release.