Department of Public Safety
Vermont State Police
Fire Investigators: Det. Sgt. Todd Ambroz, Assistant Fire Marshal Paul Cerutti.
Case # 16A203118
Address: 42 Sweeney Farm Road, South Hero, VT
Owners/Victims: Mary Powell and Mark Brooks
On the eve of June 28th, 2016 at approximately 10:15 PM the State Fire Investigation Unit was contacted regarding a fire at 42 Sweeney Farm Road in South Hero. The fire chief believed the fire was caused by a lightning strike, but asked for investigators from the Vermont State Police and Division of Fire Safety to confirm his findings the following morning. On June 29th, 2016 Det. Sgt. Todd Ambroz (VSP) and Assistant Fire Marshal Paul Cerutti (Division of Fire Safety) responded to the fire scene at 7:45 AM. 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 PM on 6/28/16. The lightning hit the ground and caused wind chimes to be knocked off the tree. A circuit breaker inside the house tripped due to the strike, but no visible damage was observed at that time. At 5:45 the homeowner left the house and approximately an hour later the fire was called into the fire department. A lightning strike report received today from STRIKEnet confirms there was a lightning strike at 5:21 PM and another one at 5:56 PM on 6/28/16. In fact, during the 24 hours of 6/28/16 there were 46 recorded cloud to ground lightning strikes recorded within 5 miles of 42 Sweeney Farm Road. The most likely cause of this fire at this time is lightning. The home is considered a total loss at an estimated value of 1.7 million dollars. There were no injuries during this fire, but a dog and three cats did not make it out of the blaze. A Grand Isle Deputy Sheriff, Brandon Allen, was able to save 4 dogs from the burning structure. Anyone with more information regarding this incident is asked to contact Det. Sgt. Todd Ambroz of the Vermont State Police at 802-878-7111.
Detective Sergeant Todd Ambroz
A-Troop Fire Investigation Unit
Williston, VT 05495