People & Places

Fatal southern Vermont fires claim 2 lives in Brattleboro, Readsboro

The remnants of a Friday night fire at downtown Brattleboro’s McNeill’s Brewery. Photo by Kevin O’Connor/VTDigger

Southern Vermont fires claimed the lives of two people in Brattleboro and Readsboro on Friday. 

In Brattleboro, an unidentified person died after a three-alarm blaze tore into downtown’s historic McNeill’s Brewery Friday night.

Brattleboro firefighters received a call at 7:44 p.m. reporting flames at an apartment above the Elliot Street pub, which has been closed for renovations since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

Firefighters only had to look across the road from their headquarters to see smoke billowing from the brewery, which is housed in their predecessors’ two-century-old wooden station.

Owner Ray McNeill recently has used his brewery’s Facebook page to chronicle a series of building renovations that have gutted much of the interior and required exterior scaffolding support.

Because of the work, firefighters couldn’t enter the burning structure but instead circled it from outside before controlling the blaze just before 9 p.m.

The Brattleboro department received help from three states, including other departments based in Vermont and neighboring Massachusetts and New Hampshire. 

Local and state investigators on the scene Saturday said authorities had yet to determine how they would reach and retrieve the victim and therefore couldn’t confirm the person’s identity.

The blaze took place shortly after hundreds of residents descended on downtown for a tree lighting, first-Friday Gallery Walk and “Holly Days Holly Nights” shopping promotion.

The building, which the Brattleboro Historical Society dates back to 1816, housed the town’s firehouse until 1933 and became a pub in 1990.

Readsboro blaze

In a separate incident earlier Friday, authorities said a woman perished in a house fire in the Bennington County town of Readsboro. 

The victim’s identity has not been confirmed, according to a press release issued Saturday morning by Vermont State Police. 

The fire at a single-family home at 78 Grinka Road was reported at about 3 a.m., police said. The home was fully engulfed in flames when the Readsboro Fire Department arrived. 

After Fire Chief Adam Codogni learned a female occupant was unaccounted for “and believed to be somewhere within the fire scene,” the Department of Public Safety Fire and Explosion Investigation Unit responded and located the woman deceased in the kitchen near the home’s main entrance, police wrote.

“The extensive amount of damage limited the investigators in their ability to determine the origin and cause of the fire event, however the fire does not appear to be the result of a criminal act,” police wrote.

The homeowner, who was not named by police, was not at home at the time of the fire, they said. The home was valued at about $150,000 and was not covered by insurance, they said. The Red Cross is assisting.

Kevin O'Connor

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