Two dead in Dummerston fire


DUMMERSTON -- An early morning fire on Monday killed a father and son, Vermont State Police fire investigators said.

The men were identified as Russell Nutbrown, 90, and Barry Nutbrown, 57. They lived at 420 School House Road in Dummerston near the intersection with East-West Road.

Both victims, who were musicians and well-known residents of a neighborhood known as Slab Hollow, were found dead inside the home.

There was no immediate information on what caused the blaze. The investigation is ongoing, but the fire is not considered suspicious at this time, Vermont State Police said.

Crews were called to the scene at 4:41 a.m. As of late Monday morning, West Dummerston Volunteer Fire Department and state investigators remained on scene as smoke still rose from the remains of the wooden, one-story home.

Most of the home was destroyed, but firefighters were able to contain the fire and protect nearby houses, State Police said.

The Nutbrowns were longtime residents of the small neighborhood in East Dummerston.

"I think everybody's still in shock," said neighbor Lori Thibault, who lives just across School House Road from the fire scene.

Thibault recalled the Nutbrowns as "wonderful neighbors" who gave and received help from other nearby residents. In spite of his age, the elder Nutbrown remained relatively active, Thibault said.

"He worked in his yard. He was always moving," she said. "Russell Nutbrown was definitely a staple in this community. He was always willing to help, even though he was 90."

Russell Nutbrown's wife, Joan Ellean Nutbrown, died in December 2003 at age 75. According to her obituary listing at the time, she married her husband in 1948 in Quebec; they later moved to Brattleboro and then settled in Dummerston.

Joan Nutbrown was an accomplished musician who sang and played guitar. Her husband, neighbors said, was known for his work with the fiddle.

"He was very musical," neighbor Philip Bolster recalled on Monday, also noting that Barry Nutbrown had played in a local band for years.

Philip Bolster's wife, Betty, said Russell and Barry Nutbrown "needed each other. They were committed to each other."

Russell Nutbrown formerly made his living in Putney's paper mill, the Bolsters said. In his later years, he enjoyed gardening -- at one point, raspberries were sold from the Nutbrowns' garden -- and he was something of a handyman.

"He was just a wonderful man who could do anything with his hands," Betty Bolster said. "He could just fix anything."

Betty Bolster said she and her husband were awoken by a scanner call for a structure fire early Monday. Initially, the fire was reported as happening at their home.

Betty Bolster said she stepped outside, and "all I saw along the edge of the front of the (Nutbrown) house was smoke."

Dummerston firefighters, she added, "were here really fast."

West Dummerston Fire Department was assisted by firefighters from Putney, Guilford and Brattleboro. Windham County Sheriff's Department assisted at the scene.

The bodies of the two men were transported to the Vermont Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for autopsies.

Mike Faher can be reached at or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.


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