$5,000 reward offered in antiques shop fire probe


By Cynthia Prairie

A sign on the outside of the Yankee Ingenuity Antiques shop announces a reward for information into the fire. Police photo.

A sign on the outside of the Yankee Ingenuity Antiques shop announces a reward for information into the fire. Police photo.

The Vermont Arson Tip Award program is offering $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the fire that last Tuesday destroyed the Yankee Ingenuity Antiques shop on Main Street in Chester.

Police and fire investigators have labeled the fire, which began shortly after midnight on Jan. 14, 2014 suspicious “because there was no possible way for it to start without human intervention,” Chester Police Chief Rick Cloud said Tuesday, Jan. 21.  Cloud added that three other acts of vandalism to nearby homes were reported to have occurred around the same time as the fire, and similar ones have occurred in the past. Police say the target was copper.

To report any information to help in the investigation, you can call Chester Fire Chief Matthew Wilson at 802-875-2035, the Arson Tip Line at 1-800-32-ARSON or State Police fire investigator Steve Otis at 802-875-2112.

The fire at the Yankee Ingenuity shop, owned by George and Mary Bittner, began at the outside propane gas tank and ran up the side wall and into the roof.  Some copper pipe appears to have been taken, said one investigator. But the tube was so short, it wouldn’t have been worth much.

Mary Bittner said she and her husband intend to rebuild, and while their insurance adjustor is putting together a proposed replacement amount, it may not be enough. The 24 by 24 foot building is “a total loss … the merchandise suffered mostly water damage … and the slate roof would be too expensive to replace,” she said. Bittner added that they will likely need a professional demolition company to take down the building since the structure is unsafe and the roof has sunken in farther in on itself.

But, Bittner added, “We’ll come out OK, whatever we do.”

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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 40 years. Cynthia has worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland, and has won numerous state awards for her reporting. As an editor, she has overseen her staffs to win many awards for indepth coverage. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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  1. Wayne says:

    Arson? Wow, here? Hard to imagine. That really is a shame. I do hope that they either catch the person responsible, or the person who started it can’t live with the guilt and come forward. I know I couldn’t live with myself afterward.