State police are investigating a suspicious fire in Chittenden that was reported late afternoon Tuesday. The blaze destroyed a remote, and apparently empty log home surrounded by the Green Mountain National Forest that conservationists were hoping to open to the public.
Kate Wanner, Project Manager with the Trust for Public Land, says the home, which overlooked the Chittenden Reservoir, was built in 1999 and was appraised at approximately $300,000. She says their organization purchased the three bedroom, two bathroom dwelling and surrounding 2,735 acres last month for more than $4 million and planned to eventually transfer the land to the Green Mountain National Forest.
“We are absolutely disheartened and heartbroken,” said Wanner. “This was an amazing cabin we had been hoping to open up to the public this coming June in a partnership with Vermont Huts Association."
The Vermont Huts Association is a nonprofit that's been working to create a network of all season dwellings for outdoor enthusiasts in the state.
Wanner says the house had a full basement and could sleep eight to 12 people, was situated above picturesque South Pond and was only a quarter mile from the Long Trail. She said her organization had been working with the Catamount Trail Association to reroute their trail so that skiers and hikers could get up to the cabin more easily.
“It is in an absolutely beautiful backcountry spot with views up and down the Green Mountain National Forest,” Wanner said Wednesday. She said it was unclear if they'd be able to rebuild.
Pittsfield Fire Chief Dave Colton says firefighters had to drive snowmobiles to get to the sight Tuesday evening and arrived after the building was fully engulfed.
He says because firefighters noticed fresh foot tracks leading in and out of the house they called the Vermont State Police to investigate. No one from the state police in Rutland was available to comment.
Before the property was sold to the Trust for Public Land it had been owned by Patrick Dupuis, of Blue Ridge Properties LLC.
Dupuis had reportedly hoped to create a large maple sugaring operation on the land but health and financial setbacks forced him to sell. The property went into default and Patrick Malone took ownership and sold it to the Trust for Public Land.
According to the Chittenden Town clerk's office, Robert Ashton initially owned the property and built the house in 1999.