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May 14, 2018

Accidental Fire/West Burke


VSP Press Release





Vermont State Police Fire Investigation Unit


Case # 18A402429

Investigators: Assistant State Fire Marshal Tim Angell- Division of Fire Safety, Det. Senior Sgt. Tom Williams and Det. Sgt. Steve Otis

Contact # 802-722-4600


Date/Time: May 12, 2018 at approximately 12:39 PM

Incident Location:  237 Depot Street West Burke, VT

Victim/Owner of Property:  Rachel and Terrance Howland

Tennant: Monique Prive


Summary: On May 12, 2018 at approximately 12:39 PM a fire was called into the 911 Emergency Dispatch Center. West Burke Fire Department was dispatched to a fire at 237 Depot Street, which was discovered to be a residence with a detached garage. Upon first units arrival the residence and garage were fully involved. During the start of the fire fighting efforts and explosion of a 250 pound propane tank occurred endangering all fire personnel and shooting embers a distance from the property. This resulted in another unoccupied residence across the street to catch fire as well as start several brush fires. The West Burke Fire Chief immediately requested assistance and was helped by the following fire departments: East Burke, Lyndonville, Sutton, Newark, Concord, St. Johnsbury, Danville and Sheffield/Wheelock fire department. Over 50 members arrived and were able to gain control and extinguish all the separate fires.


The West Burke Fire Chief, Tom Villeneuve, requested an origin and cause investigation for the fire due the extensive damage to the entire neighborhood. Members of the Department of Public Safety Fire Investigation Unit responded on 05-14-18 to conduct an investigation.  The origin of the fire was determined to be at the garage located at 237 Depot street  which had piles of dried leaves and other combustibles adjacent to it. These were ignited by a carelessly extinguished cigarette by a visitor to the residence. This quickly spread to the house due to the westerly winds and caught the nearby house on fire. The tenants daughter who was at the residence discovered the fire and came out the back entrance near the garage and saw the initial flames. As the fire spread to the house it caused the propane tank to explode, sending fire debris in many directions and starting several other small brush fires and a nearby home that was unoccupied to catch fire. The fire is classified as accidental.


There were two homes and a garage totally destroyed by the fire as well as another two properties which sustained heat damage from the fire as well as untold open grass/brush in the area which sustained damage from the fire. No injuries other than a foot injury were reported and that was sustained by an occupant of one of the properties which was result of exiting the house due to the reported fire. 




Detective Sergeant

Vermont State Police

Bureau of Criminal Investigations

B Troop Fire Investigations

Westminster Barracks

1330 Westminster Heights Road

Putney, VT 05346

Office: 802/722-4600