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Man tried to blow up propane tanks at JJ Peppers, prosecutors say

A man allegedly tried to ignite propane tanks Saturday at the front of a JJ Peppers at 3555 N. Central Ave. in Portage Park. | Google Streetview

A man was charged with trying to ignite a rack of propane tanks Saturday morning outside of a JJ Peppers in the Portage Park neighborhood on the Northwest Side.

Blake Brandenburg, 57, was charged with felony counts of arson and attempted arson for an incident that occurred about 5:40 a.m. near the JJ Peppers at 3555 N. Central Ave., Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney Shawn Abraham said Sunday at a bail hearing.

The store manager saw Brandenburg allegedly light a fire in a garbage can near a bus stop, Abraham said. The manager went outside and put out the fire, but Brandenburg returned and lit something under a rack of propane tanks outside the front of the store.

Blake Brandenburg | Chicago police

Firefighters showed up and put out the second fire, which charred the propane tanks, Abraham said. Cops arrested Brandenburg, who had walked away with a rolling suitcase and was in possession of a lighter.

A store employee who witnessed the aftermath said the fire appeared to be started with a newspaper or pages from a phone directory.

Brandenburg was ordered held on no bail Sunday by Judge John Fitzgerald Lyke Jr. at the Leighton Criminal Court Building.

“Starting garbage wasn’t satisfactory, so he went to the propane tanks, which could have been disastrous,” Judge Lyke said.

Brandenburg’s attorney said he is a resident of Montana, has two children, lives with his wife and that he served 12 years in the Navy.