MONTPELIER >> The founder of Burton Snowboards has pledged to donate more than $100,000 to rebuild a historic stone cabin on Vermont's highest mountain after his sons caused an accidental fire that gutted the building.
The 1936 stone hut on Mount Mansfield in Stowe is owned by the state, rented out in winter by lottery and accessible by a chairlift at Stowe Mountain Resort.
State police say Jake Burton Carpenter had asked his two sons to get the cabin prepared for a family friend on Dec. 23 by stoking a fire in the wood stove and bringing in wood to dry. Police say the pair, thinking the guest was to arrive in an hour, placed wood against the stove to dry and left the stove door open with a log against it.
But the family friend didn't show up, and a lift mechanic called in the fire early the next morning.
"It's just sad, I guess. It's a piece of history," said Detective Sgt. Todd Ambroz of the Vermont State Police fire investigation unit, who said the fire was accidental.
George Carpenter, 26, and his 19-year-old brother, Tim, had realized at about 8 p.m. on Dec. 23 that the family friend would not be going to the stone hut. The next morning, they saw fire crews at the resort.
The brothers contacted state police that day and were told to contact the fire commissioner on Dec. 28, the Monday following Christmas, their parents said. George Carpenter called an arson tip line on Dec. 26, Ambroz said.
Their parents, who co-own the pioneering snowboard company Jake Burton started in the late 1970s, have pledged $100,000 to rebuild the stone hut and say they will match any funds the state raises. If more is needed, they say they will give more. The state does not yet know the cost to rebuild.
"The Stone Hut has been a refuge and a sanctuary for our family, just like it has for so many other people. This accident was devastating for everyone, including our sons," said Jake and Donna Burton Carpenter by email from Austria. "The cause of the fire was their leaving firewood (which they had brought in for guests) too close to the stove. The accident was purely the result of an intended act of consideration."
The hut was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps as a warming hut for crews that built trails on the mountain. It was a popular spot to rent between the end of November and mid-April and slept up to 12 with wood platforms and mattresses. It cost $225 per night to rent, and the only source of heat was the wood stove. In the summer, it was used by the Green Mountain Club Mount Mansfield caretakers.
"The stone hut is one of our parks' treasured places," Vermont Natural Resources Secretary Deb Markowitz said Wednesday. "We have a complete commitment to make sure it's rebuilt."