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Investigators rule out arson in Rutland Plywood fires - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Investigators rule out arson in Rutland Plywood fires

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RUTLAND TOWN, Vt. -

Investigators spent Thursday combing through what is left of the Rutland Plywood Corporation. Investigators, looking at two separate fires, think they know why one fire started and say neither fire is suspicious.

Looking back at what was his place of employment, Edward Cormea was in disbelief.

"Whew, that's a big loss," said Cormea.

Cormea and his 170 co-workers from the Rutland Plywood Corporation are now unable to work. Seeing their business go up in flames was shocking.

"This is the only income I had. This is what we were getting by on, so I have no idea what we're going to do now," Cormea said.

Gov. Peter Shumlin said in a statement: “My heart goes out to Rutland Plywood and the 170 employees who lost their jobs in this morning's fire."

Rutland Plywood makes equipment for many companies including Burton Snowboards, Martin Guitar and gun companies like Altamont.

At 5 p.m Wednesday afternoon, the fire department responded to a blaze at a small facility belonging to the plywood company. It was quickly extinguished. Then around 1 a.m. Thursday, firefighters responded to another fire at the plywood factory. This time the company's 30,000-square-foot main facility was burning. When crews arrived, most of the building was already engulfed.

"We found about 90 percent of the building involved," Rutland Fire Capt. Michael Carlson said. "All occupants were verified to be out and we just went into defensive attack to fight the fire."

No one was hurt.

The buildings are separated by just 75 feet, and investigators say machinery likely started the first fire.

According to David Sutton, a fire investigator, "It was in an area of some machinery that has been known to start fires in the past and the evidence we found in that room where that occurred, it appears that may have happened again."

State police fire investigators say they have ruled out arson; they don't believe the two fires were connected, and they say nothing appears suspicious.

"A lot of things we are uncovering appears to be accidental as far as the first fire," Sutton said. "It wouldn't be unusual, things like this can happen."

As Rutland Plywood employees came to work Thursday morning expecting to pick up paychecks, they found their office reduced to rubble.

"They haven't said anything 'cause today is payday. Everybody gets their check from down there, too. They're running around trying to do everything right now trying to figure out how people are going to get their checks," Cormea said.

Firefighters planned to stay on the scene Thursday night to make sure none of the embers reignited. Glues, laminates and wood made both buildings extremely flammable.

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