Williamstown, Mass., firefighters putting out hotspots on the grandstand roof on Thursday. See more photos here.
POWNAL, Vt. — Fire officials are calling the blaze that heavily damaged the Green Mountain Race Track grandstand on Wednesday night suspicious, citing previous fires and trespassers at the long-closed facility. State police are requesting anyone with information related to the fire or events immediately preceding it to contact authorities.
A news release on Thursday afternoon by state police Det. Sgts. Steven Otis and Matt Hill and Assistant State Fire Marshal Stan Baranowski of the Division of Fire Safety says the massive structure was so compromised by the fire that it was "deemed too dangerous to conduct an internal examination."
The blaze at the 64,000-square-foot mostly glass and concrete grandstand was reported on Wednesday night at 10:48 p.m. and firefighters from numerous mutual departments worked through the night to keep it contained.
First arriving crews noted heavy fire throughout the long-vacant building. The fire progression was extensive and it was decided by Pownal Fire Chief Keith Coon to only fight the fire from the exterior to prevent injury or possible death by any internal firefighting efforts by fire personnel, according to the report.
Members of the investigative team arrived at about 9 a.m. According to their statement, "based upon the examination of the exterior and noting several areas of collapse in the roof and the damage to heavy support columns to the three-story steel and concrete building it was deemed too dangerous to conduct an internal examination."
There was no power to the structure and there were no reports of any lightning prior to the report of the fire.
Because of the size of the complex and the fire's progression, Coon requested assistance from the following fire departments: Pownal Valley Fire Department, Bennington Fire Department, Bennington Rural Fire Department, Shaftsbury Fire Department, and Arlington Fire Department; the Williamstown Fire Department in Massachusetts; and New York fire departments from Hoosick, Hoosick Falls, North Hoosick, Petersburgh, Pittstown, and Raymertown. Stamford Fire Department was also called to cover the Pownal station.
Once the fire became under control, Coon then requested assistance from the state Department of Public Safety Fire and Explosion Investigation Unit in determining the origin and cause of the fire.
Information was obtained that the building was the scene of several other small fires over the summer that had been put out by the Fire Department as well as numerous events of vandalism and littering throughout the property. These were deemed to be young adults hanging out in the area and entering the building to vandalize the structure, skateboard and even more recently, all-terrain vehicle riders were noted inside the structure driving around.
A video and numerous social media posts by people entering the structure over the past few years show water damage, graffiti, vandalism and little to no glass left in the windows.
The building has been closed for more than two decades and various attempts to revive the complex since greyhound racing ended in the early 1990s never took off. The 144-acre complex is owned by Green Mountain Race Track LLC and recent Facebook posts by one of the co-owners showed the property in the process of being boarded up with the expectation it would be demolished in the coming year to make way for a music festival venue.
The Vermont Arson Tip Award Program offers an award of up to $5,000 for any information that will lead to the arrest of anyone involved in the crime of arson. Call the hotline at 1-800-322-7766, contact Otis at the Westminster Barracks at 802-722-4600 or by email at email@example.com
. Anyone having additional information or having witnessed the events prior to the fire are also encouraged to reach out as well.