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Bennington College Fire Causes $250K in Damages

Staff Reports
BENNINGTON, Vt. — A fire on Tuesday afternoon caused $250,000 worth of damage to a building at Bennington College.
 
According to state police, the fire was reported at about 1 p.m. at the North Bennington campus from the administrative offices. The staff was alerted to the fire by a contractor who was performing work on the outside of the building. 
 
The North Bennington Fire Department was alerted and responded to the scene. Because of the amount of smoke and fire upon arrival, additional assistance was requested and members of the following departments responded: Bennington, Bennington Rural and Shaftsbury and New York State's Hoosick Falls and North Hoosick. 
 
Bennington College security and firefighters were able to evacuate everyone safely and firefighters were able to prevent extensive damage or spread of the fire. No injuries were reported.
 
North Bennington Fire Chief Keith Cross requested the assistance of the state Department of Public Safety's Fire and Explosions Investigation Unit to assist in confirming the origin and cause for the fire. Members of this team immediately responded to examine the scene.
 
The investigators were State Police Det. Sgt. Steven Otis and Assistant State Fire Marshal Tim Angell of the Division of Fire Safety. 
 
As a result of the examination, this fire is being classified as accidental. There were two potential electrical causes: one is the general state of the wiring in the very old farm building that had been converted to office space and the second, the ongoing contractual work that had been on the exterior of this building for the past two weeks included nailing replacement siding and door and window trim.
 
The fire originated on the interior of the walls on the east side of the building and extended through the balloon-frame construction and into the attic/crawl space, which was extensively damaged. There had been electrical issues reported during the day by staff that included flickering lights and a humming or beehive like sounds coming from the exterior wall.
 
Otis and Angell recommended that when you experience an electrical anomaly or hear strange sounds coming from within a wall that has electricity running through it that you contact an electrician, building maintenance or electrical engineer to diagnose any possible issues. This could save lives and or prevent extensive damage to the structure. These issues can often be isolated simply by shutting off the breaker to an affected area until it can be properly diagnosed or inspected.
 
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