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Suspicious fire strikes Cornwall; biggest blaze chief has ever seen

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Posted on July 26, 2018 |
By James Finn



fire5682.jpg
A FIRE ON Friday night on Park Hill Road in Cornwall badly damaged four outbuildings. Six fire departments responded to the blaze, the largest in Cornwall in many years. Independent photo/Trent Campbell

CORNWALL — Crews from six Addison County fire departments were dispatched to put out a massive blaze in Cornwall last Friday evening that Cornwall Fire Chief Denny Rheaume called the biggest fire he has seen in all of his 25 years with the department.

Fortunately, no one was injured in the fire, which started under suspicious circumstances.

Firefighters from Middlebury, Shoreham, Bridport, Weybridge, Whiting and Cornwall were called to the property at 339 Parkhill Road shortly before midnight on Friday, July 20, in response to a fire that had begun to engulf the house and four other structures on the property, Rheaume said. The property had a house, main barn, carriage barn and two smaller barns that were all badly damaged as the blaze spread. Jason and Sarah Robart bought the property in December 2016, according to the town clerk’s office.

“When we went in there, our biggest concern was to try to save the house,” Rheaume said. “It was a big ball of fire. Just massive. In my 25 years I’ve never seen that many buildings in the same area on fire at the same time.”

According to Rheaume, the main barn and two of the smaller barns burned more or less to the ground. A “carriage barn,” the last of the five structures on the property, was still standing as of Sunday but had sustained heavy enough damages that Rheaume anticipated that it would likely have to be torn down. While the residential part of the property wasn’t damaged as badly as the other buildings, Rheaume estimated that the combined water and fire damage to the house alone could come to somewhere between $100,000 and $200,000.

A summer characterized by scorching temperatures and sparse rain has  raised concerns surrounding structure and brush fires, but thankfully for homeowners and firefighters alike summer fires like the one in Cornwall have been few and far between until now.

Nobody was harmed in the Parkhill Road blaze. The property’s residents were not home for the weekend and all responding firefighters escaped injury as well, Rheaume said.

No one questioned the fire’s severity, though, as Cornwall firefighters had to return to the charred property twice on Sunday, once at 6:30 a.m. and once at 2:45 p.m., to put out smoldering fires that flared up in the buildings’ insulated attics. Rheaume said Monday afternoon that the fire appears to be completely out.

“It’s just a very devastating thing for the homeowners,” he said. “They had just moved into the place and hadn’t even been there a full week yet and now their life has been turned upside down and their plans for everything have changed.”

According to a press release by the Vermont State Police, the fire is being considered suspicious and anyone with knowledge of how it may have started should come forward. Those wishing to share information can contact Det. Sgt. Steve Otis at the state police barracks in Rutland — 802-722-4600 —or call the Arson Tip Award line at 1-800-ARSON. Information leading to an arrest could be rewarded by up to $5,000, according to the press release.

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