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Military flare shot from a barbecue started meat plant fire

The military flare that started a huge fire at the Patrick Cudahy meat plant was shot by two brothers at a barbecue on July 5.

That's according to their mother, who tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel they were "just being idiots."

The paper identified a suspect arrested Wednesday night as Kurtis Popp, 25, of Milwaukee. He remains in jail.

His brother, Joshua Popp, 23, is in California on inactive duty with the Marines after he served twice in Iraq.

His mother said he's cooperating with authorities, and he'll soon fly back to Milwaukee.

Kurtis Popp's attorney, Julius Kim, said he has spoken with prosecutors on possible charges.

He told the Journal Sentinel it would be a hard decision on what charges to file, since it was all an accident.

Deputy District Attorney Kent Lovern said it might take a few days to decide. He said it would be illegal for a civilian to have a military-grade flare, which was spotted on a video as being shot above the meat plant.

The blaze took three days to put out, caused over more than $50 million in damage, put 1,800 people out of work for at least a week, and evacuated thousands for 13 hours.

A neighbor said about 10 people were at the barbecue and he could hear fireworks shot from there all evening.

Kim would not say if his client was directly involved but he called the fire a "terrible, terrible accident."

He said his client had no bone to pick with Patrick Cudahy, and there was no malicious intent.