BRATTLEBORO >> A fire that forced 45 people from their homes on Nov. 7 has officially been declared an act of arson.
According to Det. Erik Johnson, of the Brattleboro Fire Department's Criminal Investigation Division, there is a $5,000 reward in place for any person who provides information that leads to an arrest and conviction.
"We have multiple persons of interest," said Johnson, who would not release any names at this time. "And during the investigation we found what appear to be multiple points of ignition."
Johnson would not reveal what was used to start the fire or where the points of ignition were located because he did not want to jeopardize the investigation.
"We are taking this investigation very seriously," said Johnson.
The information on the fire came from the Vermont State Police's Fire Investigation Unit.
Since the investigation began, more than 40 people have been interviewed by detectives in the BPD's Criminal Investigation Unit, said Johnson.
"And interviews continue," he said.
The initial call went to Brattleboro Central Dispatch at 6:06 a.m. on Nov. 7. Firefighters immediately responded to the scene with two engines and a ladder to find apartments 32 and 34 fully engulfed in flames. Because the 12-unit multi-family building was occupied by 45 people, the fire was immediately upgraded to a four-alarm fire.
"We needed a lot of people to help with the search" Brattleboro Fire Chief Mike Bucossi told the Reformer that day. "When you search 12 apartments, two-and-a-half stories, plus basements, it takes a lot of people do that."
The building, with ownership registered as Spring Elliot Valgar LTD Partnership, is managed by the Windham Windsor Housing Trust.
Capt. Lennie Howard, of the Brattleboro Fire Department, said since the fire, six units have been reoccupied.
"Most of the fire damage was to porches and up into the attic," he said. "The apartments were damaged by smoke and water."
Units can only be reoccupied once the Division of Fire Safety and an electrician have conducted inspections and approved them for occupation, said Howard.
Johnson said anyone who has second-hand or even third-hand knowledge of how the fire started should call the police department at 802-257-7950 and ask to speak with him. The department also has an anonymous tip line at 802-251-8188 and an online tip form at brattleboropolice.org/crime-tips. However, said Johnson, those who make anonymous tips are not eligible for a reward. If someone wants to be eligible for the reward, they have to provide their name, and that information will be included in an official report, which is available to the public once an investigation has concluded. Depending on the nature of the information, someone supplying a tip might also be called to testify in court proceedings, noted Johnson.
In addition to conducting interviews, said Johnson, the CID is also reviewing social media and videos from nearby surveillance cameras.
Bucossi told the Reformer the investigation has been frustrating for everyone involved.
"Six a.m. is not the middle of the night. It is a residential neighborhood. Somebody, somewhere, had to hear something unusual. For some reason we are not getting that information in. This is one of the bigger investigations that we want to see solved. There was total disregard of life because there were 45 children and adults in that building. It could have been a lot, lot worse and I want to see it solved."
Bucossi said even the tiniest bit of information could lead to a suspect.
"We would really like to bring this to a conclusion."