The Vermont State Police disseminate press releases for significant criminal or public safety incidents and arrests, but it is not intended to document every public contact or response to a call-for-service. If you have a question regarding an incident or case, please contact your local state police barracks or the public information officer. Please note press releases are available on this blog for 6 months following their public release. Please contact the public information officer if you need access to one that is older.

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July 2, 2016

Press Release

Department of Public Safety
Vermont State Police & Division of Fire Safety
Investigators: Det. Sgt. Todd Ambroz – VSP; Assistant Fire Marshals Paul Spicer and Joshua Maxham – DFS
Case# 16C103463
Date of Incident: July 1, 2016 @ 11:49 PM
Victim: Russell Merrill, age 60, of Poultney, VT

Summary of Investigation: On July 1, 2016 at 11:49 PM a motion sensor alarm went off at the Discount Food Store of Poultney at 298 E. Main Street in Poultney.   The owner of the store, Russell Merrill, was notified by the alarm company and responded immediately.  He arrived only a few minutes later to find smoke coming from the roof line of the store and the glass to the main door broken out.  Merrill dialed 911 to report the fire and the Poultney Fire Department responded within 13 minutes of the call.  Upon arrival they found the building filled with smoke, but no fire showing.  As they entered the smoke filled structure they could hear and feel the heat of the fire above them between the roof and the drop ceiling.  They immediately left the building just prior to it flashing over with fire.  On July 2, 2016 at 1:30 AM Chief Aaron Kerber of the Poultney Fire Department contacted the State Police and Division of Fire Safety to request an origin and cause investigation.  The fire investigators arrived on scene at first light to begin their investigation, but had to wait as the fire fighters continued to battle several hot spots inside the 6200 square feet of the cement block building.  The roof of the store had collapsed inside and was covering several of the rooms making it difficult to extinguish the blaze.  An excavator was brought in to dig out the hotspots under the several feet of charred rubble.  Once the building was cooled down a fire investigation was conducted.  Based on the statements from nearby neighbors, and a STRIKEnet report it is believed lightning may have played a major role in this fire.  At this time the fire is under investigation, but is not considered suspicious.  Due to the extensive damage sustained to the roof and interior of the building, it does not appear the building is structurally sound and the public should not go near it at this time.  Anyone with information regarding the fire is asked to please 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
Office 802-878-7111
Fax 802-878-2742