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Vt. Arson Team: Norwich Police Fleet Fire Not Suspicious

Three Norwich police cruisers were destroyed in an early morning fire on Thanksgiving. (Courtesy Norwich Police Department)

Three Norwich police cruisers were destroyed in an early morning fire on Thanksgiving. (Courtesy Norwich Police Department)

Norwich — State arson investigators are still calling a fire that destroyed three Norwich police cruisers not suspicious and they think the fire started in the engine of a 2009 Dodge Charger.

State investigators couldn’t pinpoint the exact location of where the fire started, but they assumed it was a mechanical or electrical malfunction, and the fire then spread to two nearby cruisers, Norwich Police Chief Doug Robinson said. One of the cruisers was parked about 10 feet away from the other two vehicles.

All three police cruisers were on fire at about 2:40 a.m. on Thanksgiving when the Norwich Fire Department arrived on scene. The three cruisers, a Ford Explorer and two Dodge Chargers, had been turned off behind the police station for about two hours when the fire started. A preliminary investigation by state arson investigators determined that the fire was not suspicious. Robinson met with the investigators again on Wednesday when they explained their findings in more detail.

The investigation is considered complete on the part of state arson investigators unless new evidence is found, Robinson said, but the insurance company will continue a forensic examination.

“I can breathe now,” Robinson said. “I was not as confident until the state’s presentation yesterday afternoon. They did a very good job explaining it. Instead of burnt cruisers, they were looking at it in more detail.”

The Norwich Police Department has cruisers on loan from the Hartford Police Department and the Windsor County Sheriff’s Department. The department also has an unmarked cruiser that was not damaged.

On Wednesday night, the Norwich Selectboard authorized the town to tap a reserve fund to buy new cruisers. Town Manager Neil Fulton estimated that the replacement cost would be about $167,500, but insurance should cover most of it and the net cost to Norwich should only be about $35,000.

A bid package has been distributed to auto dealers and bids are due to the town on Dec. 7.

Sarah Brubeck can be reached at sbrubeck@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.