No Charges Expected For Veranda House Employee Who Sparked Fire With Smoking Materials

Jason Graziadei •

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No charges are expected to be filed against the employee of the Veranda House who authorities believe accidentally sparked the massive fire last Saturday that destroyed the historic inn by discarding smoking materials from the deck into a trash bin below.

A source close to the State Fire Marshal investigation told the Current on Monday that the person identified as the smoker was indeed an employee of the Veranda House.

The State Fire Marshal's office said that based on the evidence collected to date, no criminal charges are anticipated.

"At this point, there’s no evidence to suggest criminal conduct and no charges have been sought," said Jake Wark, a representative of the State Fire Marshal's office.

Asked whether investigators had obtained any video of the initial discarding of smoking materials at the Veranda House, Wark said: "There are video clips out there but my understanding is that they were shot by civilians – in any event, I don’t have any to release."

The State Fire Marshall announced Monday afternoon that the improper disposal of smoking materials was the “most likely” cause of the fire that burned the Veranda House to the ground and heavily damaged two neighboring homes. Nantucket Fire Chief Steve Murphy told the Current that authorities "know it was a person on the deck discarding smoking materials down to the area of the trash below."

Over the past two days, the owners and management of the Veranda House, along with representatives of their insurance company, have been on the island and surveying the remains of the historic inn. Plans are in the works to bring in heavy equipment to take down the portions of the structure that are still standing.

Step Lane remains closed, with jersey barriers erected and community resource officers guarding them to prevent the public from getting close to the site of the fire.

The joint investigation into the devastating blaze by the Nantucket Fire Department, the Nantucket Police Department, and the State Police Fire & Explosion Investigation Unit assigned to the State Fire Marshal’s office determined that the fire began beneath the front porch, where hotel trash was stored.

“This fire was first reported at about 6:45 a.m. Saturday morning, when many guests were likely still asleep,” said Chief Murphy. “It began beneath the front porch, where smoke alarms inside couldn’t immediately detect it. We’re extremely fortunate that everyone made it out safely, and I want to recognize the heroic efforts of community members whose immediate action under dangerous conditions helped to save lives.”

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