Police have arrested a Janesville man suspected of setting a fire that damaged a south-side house Thursday night and displaced seven people.
Janesville police Detective Erik Goth said police arrested Elijah J. Dvorak, 18, on suspicion of felony arson and first-degree recklessly endangering safety Friday morning.
Goth said Dvorak admitted he set fire to the Timber Trail Community-Based Residential Facility, 1609 S. River Road, Janesville. The facility is run by Abilities Inc., a Fort Atkinson-based company.
An arrest report lists Dvorak as a resident of the South River Road house.
The fire was reported about 10:24 p.m. Thursday, the Janesville Fire Department reported in a news release Friday morning.
Dvorak had been missing for several hours after firefighters extinguished the fire, and police had been trying to locate him, Goth said. Railway workers had spotted him near railroad tracks off West Court Street shortly before 8 a.m. Friday, Goth said.
A Janesville police alert issued Friday afternoon said Dvorak was spotted inside a train car along West Court Street.
A patrol officer picked up Dvorak near a gas station several blocks away. Dvorak admitted to detectives he’d set fires at the house, according to the alert. Goth said an investigation is ongoing, and he couldn’t give further details about what Dvorak told police.
“He told me he started the fire. I don’t want to elaborate on the motivation,” Goth said.
The fire appeared to have been contained to the lower level of the house, which appears on Abilities’ website to be a ranch-style home, Goth said. He said police have no other suspects in the fire.
Some of the homes Abilities operates are for people with “physical and mental disabilities” or “chronic mental illnesses,” although Abilities on its website doesn’t give details about Timber Trail.
An assistant at Abilities’ corporate office told The Gazette that company executives weren’t immediately available for comment.
The Rock County Sheriff’s Office indicated Dvorak had been booked into the Rock County Jail on Friday.
Friday’s police alert said Dvorak was being held on a previous court-ordered commitment, and the fire case, including potential charges, have been forwarded to the Rock County District Attorney’s Office.
The fire displaced seven people at Timber Trail, the fire department said. No injuries were reported.
A fire department report listed the damage as $15,000 to the house and $10,000 to contents.
Abilities was helping the displaced people, according to the report.
The fire department reported seeing smoke and flames coming from the basement and was told someone might be trapped there. Firefighters found no one in the basement, the report stated.
An automatic sprinkler system kept the fire in check, and firefighters were able to extinguish it quickly, according to the report.
The Milton Fire Department provided aid.