VPR Header
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
VPR News

State Police Say Footprints Point To Arson In Chittenden Cabin Blaze

A close up shot of the twisted metal roof and chimney, just about all that remains of a cabin recently purchased by the Vermont Trust for Public Land. State police believe the fire was deliberately set last Tuesday.
Nina Keck
/
VPR
A close up shot of the twisted metal roof and chimney, just about all that remains of a cabin recently purchased by the Vermont Trust for Public Land. State police believe the fire was deliberately set last Tuesday.

State police say arson is to blame for a fire that destroyed a remote $300,000 cabin overlooking the Chittenden Reservoir on Jan. 16. 

Detective Sgt. Tom Williams with the Vermont State Police says they’ve only just begun their investigation but he suspects foul play because the cabin was miles from any major road and had no power or utilities except solar panels.

“There was no lightning strike. There was nobody working on the building. Somebody didn't, like, leave a light switch on or forget to turn the oven off. Everything was off and had been off for a long time,” said Williams. “So, there’s really no other cause other than some form of human intervention.”

More from VPR: Suspicious Fire Destroys Potential Jewel Of Vermont Hut Network (Jan. 17)

Only the foundation, fireplace and woodstove remain after a remote log cabin in Chittenden was burned last Tuesday night in an aparant arson attack.
Credit Nina Keck / VPR
/
VPR
Only the foundation, fireplace and wood stove remain after a remote log cabin in Chittenden was burned last Tuesday in an apparent arson attack.

The night of the blaze, Pittsfield firefighters arrived after the house was completely engulfed in flames — but they got a clear photo of a single set of fresh boot tracks leading to and from the house.

Williams says firefighters then followed the tracks for four miles until they came to marks in the snow that appeared to be the passenger side of a car that had turned around and left. Williams says that indicates there was an accomplice. 

Williams said the footprints were suspicious because they stepped off and on the trail several times, "almost as if to hide or get out of the way," and he said the tracks also avoided a security camera that was on the front of the house. 

A home that had previously stood on the site decades ago also burned down, allegedly by vandals. But Williams says vandalism as a motive, in this fire, seems unlikely because of how far the arsonist had to walk to get to and from the burn site.

 

A bathtub that was one of the few things that survived a fire at a remote cabin in Chittenden last Tuesday night
Credit Nina Keck / VPR
/
VPR
A bathtub was one of the few things that survived a fire at a remote cabin in Chittenden last Tuesday, Jan. 16. Police are investigating the blaze, which they believe was set on purpose.

He says police are also trying to track down possible video footage, both from the security camera on the house — which Williams says did have power at the time of the fire — and trail cameras owned by nearby property owners.  

The house, outbuildings and surrounding 2,700 acres of land had recently been sold to the Vermont Trust for Public Land. The trust had planned to make the cabin and surrounding land available to the public this summer.

Kate Wanner, a project manager for Trust for Public Land, says they still plan to open the property to the public and transfer ownership to the Green Mountain National Forest. But she says it's unclear if they'll rebuild the cabin.

It was covered by insurance, Wanner says, but because solar batteries and other materials in the house melted in the fire, they will have to do expensive cleanup of the site.

A photo of the log cabin as it looked in July of 2017.
Credit Nina Keck / VPR
/
VPR
A photo of the log cabin as it looked in July of 2017. The home, which had been appraised for $300,000, was destroyed last Tuesday in a fire that state police believe was deliberately set.

The property's previous owner, Patrick Dupuis of Blue Ridge Properties, LLC, had hoped to create a large maple sugaring operation on the land, but health and financial setbacks forced him to sell.

Williams said when the property went into default, many businesses and vendors hired by Dupuis were not paid.

“I understand there were a lot of bills that were just left unpaid and then not tended to afterwards, and I’m understanding right now that it’s mostly business type places — oil delivery, propane, just your normal everyday bills," said Williams. "But I guess there were quite a few of them.”

He says they’re investigating all of those leads, but stressed it’ll be a long process.

Williams said fire investigations are some of the hardest crimes to solve and it can often take years to get to the truth. Anyone with information is asked to call the state’s arson tip line: 1-800-32-ARSON (1-800-322-7766)

Related Content