BRATTLEBORO -- The owner of a South Main Street apartment building that was the scene of a two-alarm fire Saturday night is offering a $1,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for the blaze.
John Dunphy, who owns the Lawrence Block at 23 South Main Street, declined to make any assumptions about what started the fire, though he said investigators say it started in a closet and was not started by an electrical malfunction.
After a preliminary investigation the Brattleboro Police Department on Sunday confirmed that the fire was suspicious and may have been caused by an act of arson.
The police would not say anything more about the fire, since the investigation was ongoing
Dunphy was on the scene Sunday, going through the apartments with an alarm specialist and a cleanup crew.
Dunphy said the smoke and water damage was minimal and he hoped to have three of the tenants back in their apartments by the middle of the week.
He said it was likely that all of the tenants could move back in within a week or two.
"Any fire is bad, but it could have been a lot worse," Dunphy said Sunday.
The first fire alarm came into the Brattleboro Fire Department just before 6 p.m. Saturday, and a second alarm was triggered minutes later.
Firefighters from Putney, Keene, N.H., and Greenfield, Mass., assisted the BFD on the scene after the second alarm was sounded.
The BFD arrived on the scene around 6 p.m. with light smoke showing from the second floor front.
The fire was contained to a second floor closet and all 10 apartments were checked, and emptied.
Brattleboro fire investigators say there was moderate damage to two storage closets on the second floor as well as a second floor hallway.
There was also some smoke damage in a stairwell and part of the third floor hallway.
The fire was declared under control just after 7 p.m.
There were no injuries and some of the tenants spent the night with family or friends.
The American Red Cross set up an emergency shelter at the Gibson-Aiken Center.
Dunphy said the apartments were wired with an alarm system which operated just as it was supposed to.
The light smoke sent an alarm to the Brattleboro station, and firefighters were on the scene within minutes.
"There was minimal water damage in the apartments," Dunphy said. "The firefighters were here quickly. Everything operated just as it was supposed to. That part is reassuring."
"Early notification gave us a chance to get there when the fire was relatively small," BFD Chief Mike Bucossi said Sunday. "The alarm sounded in Central Station and in the apartment building and it gave the tenants a chance to get out. It certainly prevented any injury, or worse."
The Lawrence Block was the scene of another fire in January 2009 that left 20 people homeless.
That blaze, which occurred in the middle of a cold winter night, was started by a cigarette and completely destroyed the building.
It has not been rebuilt and the property where the apartment building stood is still vacant.
Anyone with information on the South Main Street fire should call Det. Michael Carrier at the Brattleboro Police Department at 802-257-7950, or the tipsline at 802-251-8188.
Information can also be sent to tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 279
See more photos from the scene, here.