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State police say cause of fatal Dummerston fire was accidental

DUMMERSTON—An early-morning house fire on Jan. 6 at 420 Schoolhouse Rd. that left two people dead was caused by accidental means.

That was the outcome of an investigation, led by Vermont State Police Det. Sgt. J.P. Schmidt from the Rockingham barracks, into the fatal fire.

According to Schmidt’s report, which was released on Jan. 13, detectives with the state police’s Fire Investigations Unit and Bureau of Criminal Investigation determined that the fire was caused by accidental means — most likely smoking materials.

The preliminary autopsy by the Vermont Office for the Chief Medical Examiner in Burlington indicates that both victims — Russell Nutbrown, 90, and his son, Barry Nutbrown, 57 — died due to smoke inhalation, Schmidt wrote.

The investigation has not indicated any signs this fire was suspicious in any way, Schmidt wrote.

According to state police, the fire at the single-family home was reported to Keene Mutual Aid at 4:41 a.m., and the house was totally engulfed in flames by the time the first fire crews from the West Dummerston Volunteer Fire Department arrived.

Both men were inside the house when the fire broke out, state police said.

Fire personnel from Vernon, Guilford, Putney, and Brattleboro assisted West Dummerston crews. The fire destroyed the residence, but firefighters were able to contain the fire and keep it from spreading to nearby houses.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #237 (Wednesday, January 15, 2014). This story appeared on page C1.

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