UPDATE: The reward for information on the rash of suspicious Stowe fires is now $100,000, according to Stowe Police Department detective Fred Whitcomb. It was previously $30,000.
A $100,000 reward has been offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever is responsible for a rash of suspicious fires in Stowe over the past four years.
Stowe Police Department, along with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Vermont State Police’s Arson Tip Award Program originally announced a $15,000 reward this week, which was quickly matched by an anonymous donor.
On Oct. 21, according to Stowe police detective Fred Whitcomb, the reward was increased to $100,000 after that donor increased their contribution by $60,000 and another donor, also anonymous, offered an additional $10,000.
According to Alexander Schmidt of the ATF’s Boston field office, the donor is “a benevolent Stowe community member” who “wishes to remain anonymous and is not looking for public recognition.”
“ATF and our investigative partners at Stowe PD and the Vermont State Police are increasingly concerned about the escalating nature of these fires and the risk they potentially pose to public safety (both the public in general and the first responders handling these calls) if this pattern continues,” Schmidt said in an email Tuesday. “Additionally, we believe that the public may already have information that could be valuable to the investigation and we are encouraging them to come forward and contact us should that be the case. We also want to remind the public to remain vigilant, especially in the overnight hours, as the majority of these fires have been set under the cover of darkness.”
According to investigators, more than a dozen fires have been intentionally set in Stowe since 2016, with an estimated total property damage of more than $4 million.
“While to date, there have been no injuries or fatalities, intentionally set fires pose a serious danger to the community, public safety and its first responders,” read a statement from the ATF’s Boston field office released Monday.
The most recent fires were set within hours of each other, late Aug. 29 going into the early morning of the 30th — the first one was in a Dumpster on River Road, and was contained to the contents of that trash receptacle; the second was at the Stowe Cable Vision building on Thomas Lane, in the village, and was put out before it could too heavily damage the building.
Rick Rothammer, CEO of the local cable utility, thanked the police and fire departments in a letter to the editor, writing, “If not for their quick response and amazing skill set we would have surely lost our building.”
Another unsolved blaze was lit in June in a different garbage receptacle near a shared condominium garage complex on South Main Street. It torched one of the garage bays.
Last year, on March 30, 2019, fire destroyed the Stoware Common building at 638 S. Main, home to several businesses and storage for props and costumes owned by the Stowe Theatre Guild.
That evening, fire damaged the Stowe Free Library and Helen Day Art Center building at 90 Pond St.
Weeks later, on April 18, fire damaged the building at 14 Pond St., then home to Stowe Chiropractic.
The library’s inventory was heavily damaged by water, after the fire set off the building’s sprinkler system.