By Elizabeth Hewitt, VTDigger.org
The South Hero home of Green Mountain Power President and CEO Mary Powell caught fire Tuesday evening, June 28, and burned into the night. Vermont State Police said a preliminary investigation indicates the fire may have been started by lightning. The fire is still under investigation.
Don Turner, chief of the Milton Fire Department, responded to the fire. His department was one of nine called in to help the South Hero Fire Department try to subdue the blaze. Turner said he saw more than a dozen trucks on the scene at one point.
According to the police report, Grand Isle Deputy Sheriff Brandon Allen rescued three dogs from the blaze. Two dogs and three cats perished in the fire. No other injuries were reported. The home is considered a total loss at an estimated value of $1.7 million, according to the police report.
Det. Sgt. Todd Ambroz from the Vermont State Police and Assistant Fire Marshal Paul Cerutti from the Division of Fire Safety, responded to the fire scene early Wednesday morning. Examination of the scene revealed an area in the back yard where lightning had struck the ground and left small holes in the lawn. This is consistent with one of the homeowners having observed a lightning strike in the back of the house near a tree with metal wind chimes at approximately 5:15 p.m. on June 28, police said in the news release. When the lightning hit the ground, it caused wind chimes to be knocked off the tree, and a circuit breaker inside the house to trip, but no visible damage was observed at that time.
At 5:45 p.m. the Powells left the house and approximately an hour later the fire was called in to the fire department.
A lightning strike report received Thursday, June 30, from STRIKE.net confirms there was a lightning strike at 5:21 p.m. and another at 5:56 p.m. on June 28. In fact, during the 24 hours of June 28 there were 46 recorded cloud-to-ground lightning strikes recorded within five miles of the homeowner’s house..
Anyone with more information regarding this incident is asked to contact Det. Sgt. Todd Ambroz of the Vermont State Police at 802-878-7111.