Investigation continues into ‘suspicious’ fire at Green Mountain Race Track

Vermont News

POWNAL, Vt. (NEWS10) — Thirteen different fire crews worked to put out a massive blaze at the former Green Mountain Race Track Wednesday night, and some crews remained there on Thursday.

Jim Winchester owns Winchester Deli on Route 7. He has dedicated part of his store wall to show historic photos of the Green Mountain Race Track. He has memories back from when he worked there.

When the track closed in 1991, he, like many others, wondered what would replace it.

“The race track is the most talked about the least done about,” he said. “Every day somebody talks about what are we going to do with it. I’m on the planning board. It’s one of the big talks at the end of most meetings.”

He didn’t think much of it when he heard about another fire.

“My wife was on Facebook, and she said, ‘Jim, the tracks are burning down,'” he recalled. “I said, ‘No, that can’t be,’ you know. We knew they’ve been lighting fires in there. Somebody really got it hot today.”

Fire crews were on the scene throughout the day Thursday. Pownal Fire Chief Keith Coon said it was the biggest fire he’s ever seen in his 40-year career.

“We don’t know the cause of the fire, but we’ve had numerous calls in the past,” he said. “There’s been people inside the building partying, and there’s been some fires inside the building, so we’ve been here, like I said, numerous, numerous times.”

The fire caused part of the roof to cave in. The building has been abandoned for decades, but Winchester said the memories will live on forever.

“It’s sad; it really is sad,” he said. “Like a lot of things, you miss the people who come around. Knowing all the jockeys and trainers, the employees. It’s what would you miss.”

The Vermont Arson Tip Award Program offers an award of up to $5,000 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. 

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