Fire at Sanders’ Vermont office investigated as arson after string of vandalism incidents targeting lawmakers

Investigators are treating a fire in Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Vermont office Friday night as arson, according to local authorities.

In an updated press release Saturday afternoon, the Burlington Fire Department announced that it had “deemed this fire incendiary in nature” and said the investigation has been transferred to the Vermont State Police.

State police said they are looking for one male suspect who is believed to have used a possible accelerant to start a “significant fire” in an area of the senator’s office that endangered staff who were inside. According to the Burlington Fire Department, the sprinkler system doused the flames, and none of the staff members were injured.

As of Saturday afternoon, authorities did not release a motive for the attack.

Friday’s fire follows a series of smaller violations — that have otherwise been limited to stickers and spray-paint vandalism — at the offices of other lawmakers in recent months.

Multiple lawmakers who have expressed support for Israel’s ongoing war in Gaza have dealt with instances of defacement or vandalism at either state or federal offices.

Most recently, Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) reported to Capitol police last Friday that “Free Palestine” stickers had been placed on posters outside his Capitol office referencing Israeli hostages held since Oct. 7.

Gottheimer, who has been vocal in bringing attention to the Israelis held in captivity by Hamas, said it was the second time the posters had been tampered with.

Other lawmakers, like Reps. David Valadao (R-Calif.) and Greg Landsman (D-OH), have reported vandalism at their district offices, including one such message outside Landsman’s Ohio office that read: “this Ken supports genocide,” a play on the viral “Barbie” movie. “Peaceful protests can be powerful, but vandalism and dangerous rhetoric are wrong, and ineffective,” Landsman said in response.

House Armed Services ranking member Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said in December that the garage door of his Bellevue, Washington, home had been spray-painted with a message in support of a ceasefire. At the time, Smith was vocal in his support for Israel’s war in Gaza, though more recently he has called on Israel to “change the way they are conducting this war” following the bombing of a World Central Kitchen convoy on Monday that killed seven.

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