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Monday, Mar 4, 2024

American Flatbread fire undergoing investigation, ruled “suspicious”

The American Flatbread shed that was on fire on March 13.
The American Flatbread shed that was on fire on March 13.

A fire at the American Flatbread restaurant in Marble Works on Monday, March 13 has been labeled as “suspicious” and is currently being investigated by the Middlebury Police Department. 

The Middlebury Fire Department received a call at 9:27 p.m. on March 13 reporting a structural fire in a woodshed outside of the restaurant, according to department records. The shed sits between the two main Marble Works buildings, putting both larger structures at risk of catching fire. 

The fire department was en route to the site at 9:32 p.m. and arrived two minutes later. By 9:50 p.m., the fire was under control. 

According to Fire Chief David Shaw, who was responsible for determining the cause and origin of the fire, the amount of fire spread within the structure made it suspicious to him. American Flatbread was closed on the day of the fire, so there were no employees present at that time. 

Shaw told The Campus that the entire structure was consumed by flames as tall as 25 feet by the time they arrived. The fire had begun to affect the surrounding buildings at that point, leaving minor heat damage on the main Marble Works complex. 

After his primary assessment of the fire, Shaw contacted the Addison County Firefighters Association Investigation Team and Vermont State Police to conduct a further investigation. “My suspicions were that this was not an accidental fire; this fire was an intentionally set fire,” Shaw said. 

The fire is currently listed as “suspicious” and is under investigation. Due to concern about compromising the investigation, further information is not available at this time. 

Shaw did confirm, however, that this was an isolated incident and said he did not believe there was any further danger to the community. The Middlebury Police Department was not able to be reached for comment on the status of the investigation. 

The shed, which was completely destroyed in the fire, stored the wood that American Flatbread seasons and uses for their pizza-making. 

According to Danielle Boyce, owner and general manager of American Flatbread, the restaurant’s wood store, wood boxes and a compost trove were lost in the fire. Despite these losses, the restaurant’s wood supplier immediately ordered more wood and sought a new supplier to procure more seasoned wood to meet the restaurant’s immediate needs. As a result, business at the restaurant was able to continue as usual, and service was unaffected by the fire. 

Boyce also told The Campus that Flatbread staff was somewhat rattled after the fire. While the restaurant operated as planned the week of the fire, higher-level staff such as the head chef and head bartender were concerned by the incident. Boyce said she is, of course, invested in the restaurant she owns, and as a result felt somewhat targeted by the fire.

Repairs to the shed are just beginning to be approved by the restaurant’s insurance agency and are anticipated to move forward slowly. The restaurant received clearance to tear the shed down, a process that Boyce said she is anxious to start.

“That’s a huge first step. I don’t want to look at it anymore, and I don’t want the public to have to look at it anymore, so that should be happening any day now. I’ll just feel better once it’s down,” Boyce said. 

While Boyce was careful not to compromise the investigation, she stated that her final goal is not retribution. She said she expects the investigation process to be complex, but ultimately wants to protect her business and her staff and hopes that the investigation will relieve some of the pressure she feels to do so. “It doesn’t really matter to me if this person ‘pays,’ so to speak, but it’s more that I just want to feel safe,” Boyce added.

The beginning of the investigation felt uncertain, Boyce said, as she was unsure about the next steps and had little information about the process. A few weeks out from the incident, Boyce said she is satisfied with the police response to the fire. 

The Middlebury Police continue their investigation, and Marble Works will install more security cameras to prevent future events. 

Both Shaw and Boyce highlighted that this event was unusual for the Middlebury community and is still under investigation. “Right now, it feels really weird that such a big thing happened in Middlebury, and not really a lot of people are aware or talking about it,” Boyce said.

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