At approximately 7:22 AM on April 9, 2021 two 911 calls were received about a fire at a house at 138 Cherry Street in St. Johnsbury, VT. The St. Johnsbury Fire Department responded to the scene within 2 minutes as several nearby fire departments were also dispatched to respond. The building is a three story house that has been divided into five separate apartments which is owned by St. Johnsbury Properties. Once the fire was extinguished the DPS Fire & Explosion Investigation Unit was summoned to the scene to conduct an origin and cause investigation into the fire. Initially it was believed the fire may have started due to some electrical issues in the kitchen area at or near the electric stove.
A lengthy follow up investigation, which included the assistance of the St. Johnsbury Fire and Police Departments, determined the fire was intentionally set by the sole occupant of apartment #1, Wayne W. Barrett age 70. Barrett, who lived on the first floor, had removed most of his personal belongings from the apartment after the new building owners raised the rent.
On the morning of April 9, 2021 at approximately 7:00 AM, Barrett was removing more items from his apartment and taking them to his new residence. Within only minutes after Barrett left his apartment, a fire was observed in the kitchen area as it breached a nearby window. The other four occupants of the building were inside of their apartments at the time the fire began, but all made it out safely.
The investigation revealed a metal cooking pot of cooking oil was intentionally placed on the right rear burner of the stove that was set to the highest temperature setting. The oil eventually reached a temperature where it ignited to open flames and spread to the rest of the combustibles nearby.
Fire Fighters from the St. Johnsbury, Lyndonville, and Littleton, NH fire departments did an incredible job of saving the building and kept the fire from spreading to the other apartments. Smoke and soot damage in the apartment is extensive and the building is not currently able to be occupied without extensive cleanup.
On May 20, 2021 Wayne Barrett was arrested for First Degree Arson and Reckless Endangerment. He was processed for the arrest at the St. Johnsbury State Police Barracks and released with a citation to appear in Caledonia Criminal Court on July 12, 2021 at 8:30 AM. Anyone with further information regarding this case is asked to please contact Det. Sgt. Todd Ambroz at the State Barracks in Williston at 802-878-7111 or by email at [email protected] .