By Katy Savage
Two people died at a fire on 41 Baxter Street Saturday evening, police said.
Police and fire officials were called to fire in the wood frame building around 4:30 p.m. Oct. 27.
The 41 Baxter Street is city-owned. It was purchased out of tax sale in 2017 due to about $12,200 in unpaid taxes. The one-year redemption period for the owner to make a payment plan or try to recoup the property expired in the spring of 2018, said Rutland Zoning Administrator Tara Kelley.
“At that time, everyone in the building was given a notice to vacate,” said Kelley. “However, there were people living inside the house and they did not leave.”
Kelley said the city was working through the court system to have them evicted.
“We’ve been at it for a while,” said Rutland City Mayor David Allaire. “Certainly it’s very sad.”
Police had not released the names of the victims as of Tuesday, Oct. 30.
The property was owned by the Barnes Family Trust, said Kelley.
It appeared the tenants had been using candles and lamps for heat, said Vermont State Police Det. Sgt. Todd Ambroz.
The bodies were sent to the Chief Medical Examiner’s office in Burlington for an autopsy.
The city’s insurance company as scheduled to assess the building Wednesday, but Allaire said it was likely a total loss.
This was the second fire in Rutland around the same time.
Fire investigators said a second fire at 160 Main St. had smoke “pouring out of it” when they arrived round 1:30 a.m. Oct. 28.
The home was vacant and did not have any electricity supplied to it, Ambroz said.
“That definitely, to me, is an arson case,” he said.
Ambroz said someone had gained access to the building by breaking in, though he declined to say where until the investigation was complete.
This was the fifth vacant house to catch fire in Rutland since last October, said Ambroz. It’s unclear if they are all related, but Ambroz didn’t think they were all a coincidence.
“Vacant buildings don’t just catch on fire,” he said. “It’s a pattern.”
Ambroz said the state’s fire investigation unit is a small team, made up of five people. All of them were busy the evening of the fires in Rutland.
“Half the team went to Baxter Street and the other half went to South Main Street,” he said.
It was unclear if the two fires were related.
The South Main Street home was once a real estate company. It’s now owned by Monarchos, LLC. Ambroz said the fire started on the first floor of the house in an area where there were several old real estate signs, paper products, and magazines. Ambroz said the fire lacked oxygen in the brick building, making it easy to control. Most of the structure was preserved.
Anyone with further information about the fires is asked to contact Ambroz at 802-878-7111.
An award of up to $5,000 will be paid for any information that leads to the arrest of the person or persons responsible for starting the fire.