House gutted; car, neighboring home heavily damaged

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BENNINGTON — Fire investigators are studying clues and seeking information from the public after a blaze of undetermined origin gutted one house overnight, destroyed a car parked nearby and heavily scorched a neighboring home.

Bennington Fire Department Chief Jeff Vickers said an unoccupied house at 236 Grandview St. was fully ablaze when firefighters arrived shortly after 3 a.m. Friday, and the structure soon after collapsed upon itself.

Firefighters also had to contend with a burning Audi parked in the driveway of the house at 240 Grandview,

which sustained both exterior and interior damage before the fire there was knocked down.

"Firefighters forced entry into the house at 240 Grandview Street and conducted a search for occupants," Vickers said. "No occupants were located during this search."

He said firefighters then "conducted an interior and exterior fire attack to contain the fire in the house."

The chief said 40 to 50 fire personnel responded, including mutual aid firefighters from the Bennington Rural Fire Department, Pownal Valley Fire Department and Pownal Protective Association Fire Department.

Bennington police, the Bennington Rescue Squad, and Green Mountain Power also responded to the scene, which was cleared at 6:47 a.m.

No one was reported injured.

Under investigation

Although Vickers said no determination as to the fire's cause had been made as of Friday evening, the blaze is considered suspicious.

The house at 236 Grandview had collapsed into the foundation, while the home at 240 Grandview showed significant damage to the wood clapboards and around a porch and entrance area. Damage to the exterior "was definitely extensive," Vickers said, and damage extended to the interior in some sections.

The property will need repair work before it is considered habitable, Vickers said, adding that the property owner did not require housing assistance at this time. He said it would be up to the insurance firms to estimate the cost of damage to each property.

According to records at the town assessor's office, Vincent Royce is listed as the owner of 240 Grandview St., while the house at 236 Grandview is owned by Kim and Roberta Guertin and reportedly was being renovated and was unoccupied.

That property was sold to the current owners in November 2016 for $70,000.

Neither owner could be reached Friday for comment.

Although no determination of cause has been made, authorities are asking public to call if they have information. A reward of up to $5,000 is possible for information concerning the fire at 236 Grandview, according to a poster at the fire scene.

"There are no clear answers," Vickers said. "We would like more information."

People can contact Bennington police Det. Larry Cole, at 802-442-1030, Vermont State Police Det. Sgt. Thomas Williams, at 802-773-9101, or call a confidential arson tip line at 1-800-32-ARSON.

Jim Therrien writes for New England Newspapers in Southern Vermont and VTDigger.org. Email: jtherrien@benningtonbanner.com. @BB_therrien on Twitter.


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