Owner of Burned Vermont Building Hopes to Rebuild

The owner of a historic St. Johnsbury, Vt., building severely damaged by fire last month wants to rebuild.

Owner Bruno Ravel is still too upset about the fire to talk to reporters. But he has been talking with talking with historic preservationists, real estate developers and the Chamber of Commerce about how to rebuild – despite having no insurance, Vermont Public Radio reports.

Scott Beck, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, owns a bookstore in a neighboring building that was rebuilt after a fire in 2000. He knows how much work it will take just to stabilize the building.

“The third floor is mostly gone, part of the roof is gone and part of the fa├žade. So they’ve got their work ahead of them, for sure,” he said of the fire on Railroad St.

One preservationist estimates the building will cost $1 million to rebuild.

Fire has burned parts of downtown St. Johnsbury in 2000, 2003 and in 2008.

The Dec. 23 fire was accidental, caused by electrical problems, fire official said.

Fire Chief Troy Ruggles says all of these fires were in old buildings. Ravel’s building had smoke detectors, but not sprinklers, he said. Ruggles would like to see more emphasis on helping property owners install smoke and heat detectors and sprinklers.

“So we never have to deal with this again, so we never have to worry about the loss of life of civilians living in these buildings, the loss of firefighters operating in these buildings, and generally we can be one step ahead of the fire so that if it does occur we have the detection and suppression to stop it,” Ruggles said.

Ravel’s building had smoke detectors, but not sprinklers, and like many older buildings across Vermont, the walls and wiring allowed the flames to spread quickly.