FAIRLAWN: A boarded-up symbol of Greater Akron’s Industrial Age prestige was destroyed by a fire that started during a moment of horseplay among four teens from Barberton and Norton, police said.

The teens didn’t go to the nearly 11,000-square-foot Cornus Hill Mansion on Jan. 13 to set a fire, Fairlawn Police Sgt. Mark Schlegel said Friday. The group insisted to authorities that they left the 1935 mansion without knowing that flames had spread from a pine branch that they had set on fire inside a refrigerator there.

But two girls and a boy now face juvenile charges, and their friend, Donavin Gowin, 18, of Barberton, is free on bond after being charged with felony arson in the blaze that took seven area fire departments more than 12 hours to extinguish.

Police did not publicly identify the younger teens. Gowin could not be reached Friday and it was not clear if he or his friends had obtained lawyers.

Investigators zeroed in on the group this week after receiving outside tips, Schlegel said. The teens have cooperated since being approached by police, he said.

The youths told investigators that they went to the former home of Russell Firestone — the second son of Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. founder Harvey Firestone — to explore, not unlike teens did a decade before at the shuttered Rolling Acres Mall in Akron.

Schlegel said the teens climbed through a window that had been boarded up. It’s not clear if the teens or someone else removed the boards because the Chamberlain Road mansion had attracted vandals and other intruders in recent years.

Inside the former Firestone home — which found second and third lives as a convalescent home and then offices before being abandoned — the kids happened across a pine branch and set it on fire inside a refrigerator.

That might have been considered merely criminal mischief, Schlegel said, if the fire hadn’t spread.

The teens told police they left the mansion, which had no electricity, without knowing the branch had continued to burn.

Smoke from the blaze was visible from nearby Summit Mall later that Saturday evening as more than 40 firefighters converged on the mansion.

Fire chewed up about a third of the building, and smoke and heat destroyed the rest, firefighters said.

What remains is boarded up again, Schlegel said.

“It’s not safe,” he said, urging others against exploring what remains.

The future of the property, which was estimated to be worth about $307,000 before the fire, is uncertain.

Summit County records list the owner of the property as Greg Wilson, whose extended family has owned the mansion for more than 50 years.

Over the past three years, the historic mansion has been listed for sale online at two and three times its property estimate, billed as the second-highest spot in Summit County.

Amanda Garrett can be reached at 330-996-3725 or agarrett@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter @agarrettABJ.