Brothers charged with causing Patrick Cudahy plant fire

Brothers Joshua Popp, 23, Twentynine Palm, Calif., and Kurtis Popp, 25, Milwaukee, were charged with recklessly endangering safety for allegedly shooting off a military grade flare that caused the fire earlier this month at the Patrick Cudahy plant in Cudahy. The fire caused $50 million in damage to the plant.

The Popp brothers made an initial appearance in Milwaukee County Circuit Court this afternoon.

The recklessly endangering safety charge is a class G felony, and if convicted they may be fined up to $25,000 and may be placed in prison for up to 10 years.

According to the criminal complaint, an investigation by law enforcement officials determined that the fire was caused by a military grade green star cluster market flare fired from a nearby residential area in Cudahy.

The complaint states that Joshua Popp told police that he took the flare about two years ago when he was serving in the U.S. Marine Corps. "Popp indicated it was customary for Marines to collect these flares, used in training exercises, for personal souvenirs," the complaint states.

The complaint says Joshua Popp told police that on July 5, at his parents’ house at 3656 E. Holmes, Cudahy, he showed his brother, Kurtis Popp how to ignite and launch the flare. Kurtis Popp then launched the flare from the backyard, the complaint states.

Both Joshua and Kurtis Popp told police they did not see where the flare landed.

The brothers told police that when they heard about the fire at the Patrick Cudahy plant the next day they hoped it was not caused by the flare.

After police announced that the fire was caused by a military flare, Kurtis Popp told police they did not come forward right away to authorities, "because they were afraid," according to the complaint.

A skeleton crew of 10 employees were working at the plant when the flare was launched, according to the criminal complaint.

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