Two of three boys accused of setting a fire in June that destroyed an abandoned mill building in Sanford have pleaded guilty to a minor charge in the case.

The two entered the pleas on charges of criminal mischief, a misdemeanor, in a brief hearing in Biddeford District Court on Thursday. The judge continued the case on the more serious felony charges of arson, although that charge is likely to be dismissed if the boys don’t get in trouble before the next hearing on Jan. 11, said Lisa Chmelecki, the lawyer for one of the youths.

Chmelecki said there is no formal agreement to drop the arson charge, but lawyers for the boys, York County prosecutors and the judge in the case have an understanding, and it will depend on the boys’ conduct in the meantime.

She said there was a scheduling conflict with the third boy in the case, whom she doesn’t represent, but he will go before the judge at a separate date and likely face the same decision.

The three, 12 and 13 at the time of the fire, will be on probation for a year, she said.

Her client, Chmelecki said, has been living with his parents and going to school.

The three are accused of starting a fire that quickly grew out of control in the abandoned building. They were arrested and initially taken to Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland before being released to their families.

The boys have been identified in court documents on the felony charges, and an initial hearing in that case in July was open to the press. Most of Thursday’s hearing was closed because youths accused of misdemeanors are not identified and their cases are closed to the public.

The fire was the largest mill fire that Sanford firefighters have ever dealt with. More than 100 firefighters from 20 communities fought the flames overnight after the fire started June 23, and crews continued to put out hot spots for days afterward.

Fire officials speculated that it might have spread so fast and gotten so intense because the floors were still soaked with oil from its days as a textile mill and debris that had been left behind decades earlier.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at:

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