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Court Street fire considered suspicious

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Posted on June 13, 2019 |
By John Flowers



Fire Court St Midd 1025 CMYK.jpg
AROUND 50 FIREFIGHTERS from three departments responded in the predawn hours of Monday morning to a hot fire that destroyed this apartment building at 74 Court St. near Middlebury Union High School. Officials said the cause of the blaze was suspicious. Independent photo/Steve James

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury police and fire officials continue to investigate a suspicious fire that ravaged a duplex apartment building at 74 Court St. and significantly damaged two adjacent structures during the early morning of Monday, June 10.

Middlebury Fire Chief David Shaw said it was a fortunate “fluke” that no one was hurt — or worse — during a blaze that he believes might be rooted in a dispute between a local person and one of the 74 Court St. tenants.

“There could really have been loss of life here,” Shaw said.

Investigators aren’t yet sharing many details, including names, due to the ongoing probe.

“There’s been activity between a tenant and another town resident,” Shaw said Monday morning after having put in a long morning with dozens of other firefighters from three area departments.

The Vermont State Police Arson Unit is working to determine the exact cause and origin of the fire, according to a press release issued by Middlebury police on Monday afternoon. Addison County Firefighters Association investigators have also been combing the scene, Shaw confirmed.

“Evidence has been taken away from the scene to the state lab in Waterbury,” said Shaw, who added he believes the fire was the product of “malicious intent.”

It was at around 3:45 a.m. that Middlebury firefighters and police were toned out to the blaze at 74 Court St., which is near on the west side of the street near the high school. Shaw said the building was fully engulfed and flames were threatening two nearby structures. A combined total of approximately 50 firefighters from the Middlebury, New Haven and Salisbury departments responded to the scene, according to Shaw.

Middlebury Regional EMS and the American Red Cross also assisted at the scene.

Fortunately, all residents had successfully evacuated from the duplex after smelling smoke, according to Shaw. The downstairs tenant was visiting the upstairs apartment at the time the fire was detected, Shaw said.

“This is a reminder to citizens that they should practice their fire escape plan,” he said.

Once on location, firefighters used Middlebury’s formidable new ladder truck to quickly direct water onto the roof of 74 Court St., according to Shaw. This was key in containing the blaze.

Weather was also on the firefighters’ side, Shaw explained, noting he absence of a south wind that could have hastened the spread of flames.

Shaw and his colleagues had the fire under control within 40 minutes and had it fully extinguished within an hour. The nearest hydrant wasn’t working properly, according to Shaw, whose crew was able to redeploy hose to access water from other sources.

Shaw called 74 Main St. a total loss, though the two nearby structures can be repaired.

Anyone with information about the fire is asked to contact the Middlebury Police Department at 388-3191.

Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]

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