Suspect charged with arson for Friday fires

Published 3:28 pm Monday, May 22, 2017

A 30-year-old Austin man is in custody for arson after two fires were started on Friday, including one the Austin Fire Department put out near Austin High School.


Brian James Brandner was charged Monday in Mower County District Court with first-degree arson at a dwelling and attempted first degree arson of a building — both felonies.

According to Police Chief Brian Krueger and court records, a trash can fire was reported outside of the Freedom Valu Center 101 Fourth St. NW, across from Austin High School, at 11:50 a.m.

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A gas station employee extinguished the fire.

An officer identified Brandner of Austin from camera footage of the fire being lit. The officer had previous dealings with Brandner and went to check his residence at 400 Third Avenue Northwest, where the officer observed smoke.

Austin police and fire fighters responded to the second fire call at 12:24 p.m. Austin Fire Chief Jim McCoy later deemed the fire suspicious.

It appeared some materials on the outside of the residence had been set on fire, causing damage to the siding.

Officers inquired about the previous call and learned the residence belonged to Brandner.

An Austin police detective and a Mower County deputy located Brandner not too far from Freedom Valu Center. He was taken into custody and transported to the Mower County Jail, where he admitted to starting both fires and displayed some erratic behavior, according to court records.

—Jason Schoonover contributed to this report.