Suspected arson under investigation

PROSPECT — State police are investigating an arson that occurred Tuesday in Prospect.

Investigators identified two points of origin of a fire in the basement of 104 Cook Road after landlord Martin Rutt reported criminal mischief to state police, Prospect Fire Marshal Keith Griffin said.

“This fire was not accidental in any way, shape or form,” Griffin said.

Rutt lives next door to and shares a driveway with the house, which he owns as a rental property. The fire self-extinguished due to lack of oxygen, but the basement still sustained about $15,000 in damages, Griffin said.

Last week, Rutt noticed a previous tenant had left personal belongings in the basement of 104 Cook Road. He unlocked the house’s cellar door to allow the former tenant to retrieve belongings, but never locked the door afterward.

Over the weekend, Rutt’s wife saw a vehicle pull up and back down the driveway and thought it was the former tenant.

Tuesday morning, Rutt went to check the house’s circuit breaker. Rutt then called the state police to report criminal mischief and said he assumed someone lit a fire in the house, Griffin said.

“It was not a natural cause,” Griffin said. “It was an intentionally set fire.”

The investigation did not begin until after the building was ventilated. Since Tuesday, the investigation has been turned over to state police, Griffin said.

Griffin urged homeowners to ensure that all doors and windows are locked and secure whenever their home is unoccupied, especially for an extended amount of time, such as a vacation.

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