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February 11, 2017

Press release

Department of Public Safety
Vermont State Police
Subject: Fire investigation at South Hero residence
Date: 2/9/17
Case: 17A200691
Address: 253 U.S. Route 2, South Hero
Victims: Elinor Lawrence, age 87, and Carolyn Lawrence, age 54.

On February 9, 2017 at approximately 1:33 PMthe South Hero Fire Department, and numerous surrounding fire departments, responded to a house fire at 253 U.S. Route 2 in South Hero.  Upon arrival of the Grand Isle Sheriff's Department, the Vermont State Police, and the South Hero Fire Department the house was fully engulfed in flames and the two occupants, Elinor (87) and Carolyn (54) Lawrence, were reported to still be inside the home.  The roof and the second floor quickly collapsed and the two women were unable to make it out of the home.  The State Fire Investigation Unit, which consists of Detective Sergeants from the Vermont State Police and Assistant Fire Marshals from the Division of Fire Safety, responded to the scene to conduct an origin and cause investigation.  Detectives from the State Police Barracks in St. Albans also responded to assist in the investigation.  An excavator was brought to the scene in an attempt to remove the heavy debris and to assist in locating the occupants of the house.  Both women were eventually found and removed from the home and then sent to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Burlington.  The fire investigation unit continued to examine the scene until approximately 6:30 PM and then again the following morning when there was daylight to see things more clearly.  After several interviews of family members and witnesses it has been determined the fire is not suspicious and is classified as an accident.  The investigation revealed the most likely cause of the fire, and the most competent ignition source near the area of origin at the back of the garage, was a cement burn pit located 33 feet from the back of the attached garage/house.  The burn pit was being used to burn baling twine from bales of hay and household trash.  The trash had been lit by a family member at approximately 11:15 AM on the morning of the fire and was believed to have been burned out.  The winds were blowing from the North at an average of 16 MPH around the time the fire was lit and until the house fire was noticed.  Anyone having additional information regarding this fire is asked to call Detective Sergeant Todd Ambroz at the State Police Barracks in Williston at 802-878-7111.