VSP investigates suspicious Pownal Race Track fire

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VSP investigates suspicious Pownal Race Track fire

Thu, 09/17/2020 - 4:05pm -- tim

VSP photo on September 17, 2020, of fire-damaged Pownal Race Track.

DATE/TIME: 09-16-2020 at appx 10:48 PM

INCIDENT LOCATION: 6380 US Route 7 Pownal, VT

Owners of Property/Business: Green Mountain Race Track LLC Pownal, VT  

Vermont Business Magazine On September 16, 2020 at 10:48 PM a fire was reported to 911 at the Pownal Race Track on US Route 7 in the town of Pownal a short distance from the Massachusetts state line in Bennington County. First arriving crews noted heavy fire throughout the building that had not been occupied for several years. The fire progression was extensive and it was decided by the fire chief to only fight the fire from the exterior to prevent injury or possible death by any internal fire fighting efforts by fire personnel.

Due to the size of the enclosed race stands and fire progression at the once thriving race track venue the fire chief requested assistance from the following fire departments: Pownal Valley FD, Bennington FD, Bennington Rural FD, Shaftsbury FD, Arlington FD, Williamstown, MA FD, Hoosick, NY FD, Hoosick Falls, NY FD, North Hoosick Falls, NY FD, Petersburgh, NY FD, Pittstown, NY FD and Raymer Town, NY FD.

Once the fire became under control the Pownal Fire Chief, Keith Coon, requested assistance from the Department of Public Safety Fire and Explosion Investigation Unit to assist in determining origin and cause of the fire.

Members of the investigative team arrived on 09-17-2020 at 09:00 AM and met with fire personnel. Based upon the examination of the exterior and noting several areas of collapse in the roof and the damage to heavy support columns to the three story steel and concrete building it was deemed too dangerous to conduct an internal examination.

Information was obtained that the building was the scene of several other small fires over the summer which had been put out by the fire department as well as numerous events of vandalism and littering throughout the property. These were deemed to be young adults hanging out in the area and entering the building to vandalize the structure, skateboard and even more recently, ATV riders were noted inside the structure driving around.

There was no power to the structure and there were no reports of any lightening last evening before the fire.

The Vermont Arson Tip Award Program offers an award of up to $5000 for any information that will lead to the arrest of anyone involved in the crime of arson. You may provide this information by calling The Vermont Arson Tip Award Program hotline at 1-800-322-7766, by contacting Det. Sgt. Steven Otis of the Vermont State Police at the Westminster Barracks at 802-722-4600, or by email at steven.otis@vermont.gov. Anyone having additional information or having witnessed the events prior to the fire are also encouraged to reach out as well.     

Google Maps image of abandoned Pownal Race Track grandstand from Route 7 taken in October 2019.

Steven Otis

Detective Sergeant

Fire and Explosion Investigation Unit

Vermont State Police

Westminster Field Station

1330 Westminster Heights Road

Westminster, VT 05346

Phone: 802/722-4600

Email: steven.otis@vermont.gov