Winooski fire and police had extra help investigating just what caused a fire that gutted three apartments at 102 Malletts Bay Avenue-- state fire investigators, ATF and state police.
"We are here to augment their investigation. As far as our investigators are working with fire safety to get to the point of an origin and cause. We brought our crime scene truck here just to give them some shelter from the cold here today, that is the only significance of that being here," Vt. State Police Capt. J.P. Sinclair said.
It is an apartment building acting Winooski Police Chief Ron Sheehan says they are very familiar with.
Reporter Judy Simpson: We have heard from several different people that this is a notorious building as far as drug activity goes?
Acting Chief Ron Sheehan: It does have a bad reputation, yes ma'am.
The fire broke out at 8 p.m. Thursday. The building was home to eight adults and 10 children. Everyone escaped safely. But state fire investigators went through the building, just in case.
"Our entire fire investigation team is here," Sinclair said. "Obviously, in the opening moments of a fire like this in a residential area, obviously the fear would be if there are fatalities we would need our whole team here. Happily our examination inside has revealed we don't have fatalities, so we are very grateful of that."
Judy Simpson: Has the weather impacted work?
Winooski Fire Chief Dave Bergeron: Absolutely the cold weather has, even with the fire last night, very cold. Water froze; we had ice conditions that played a real bad part. Keeping firefighters warm was very difficult.
Two apartments in neighboring buildings were evacuated as a precaution. A total of 21 people were put up in hotels by the Red Cross at a cost of $4,000.
"It is a tough time of year," said Doug Bishop of the American Red Cross. "I think we have now had eight fires we responded to just since Thanksgiving, so it is a very difficult time of year. We get very busy in the winter. We have lots of kids in these families that were displaced last night; those families lost everything."
As for the apartment house, the fire chief thinks it is so badly damaged it will probably have to be torn down.
The cause of the fire has been ruled accidental. Officials say a short in an electrical cable in one of the first-floor apartments is to blame. Malletts Bay Avenue is now open again to traffic.
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