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Multiple Fires Set in North Adams School

Staff Reports
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Firefighters prepare to enter the smoky Sullivan School.
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The cafetorium where the largest fire was set. Seen in February, the room was being used for storage.
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A firefighter breaks a window to release smoke.
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Note the four fire extinguishers. It's not known where they came from.
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Smoke spreads through the parking lot.
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Firefighters worked in teams inside the building to track down and douse multiple fires.
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Burnt materials pulled out of the cafetorium.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Multiple fires were apparently deliberately set throughout Sullivan School on Friday night. 
 
"There was more than one fire on more than one level," Fire Director Stephen Meranti said late Friday after firefighter has spent some two hours tracking down the blazes and ventilating the multilevel elementary school.
 
The state fire marshal was called to investigate and state police were also at the scene. Meranti said nothing was being ruled out. However, he was sure it was not electrical — the department had been responding to a number of calls related to alarms and wires after heavy rains blew through in the afternoon.
 
Mayor Richard Alcombright, who was at the scene for a time, said he would be awaiting the results of the investigation by the state fire marshal and the city's police force, and will assess the damage.
 
The call came in shortly after 8 p.m. of smoke on the roof of the school, which is tucked away off Kemp Avenue. That was confirmed, according to scanner reports, by a member of the Stamford, Vt., Fire Department. 
 
Heavy smoke could be seen through the windows of the lobby. When the doors were opened and the windows in the cafetorium smashed, dark smoke billowed out of the building about 8:30. 
 
No flames could be seen from the outside but firefighters found and doused fires as they searched the interior of the vacant building. 
 
"It's very manpower intensive, it's not a very big fire but because of the size of the building and trying to search the entire building, and try to extinguish the fires as they went along. it was a pretty involved operation," Meranti said.
 
Firefighters used three thermal imagers — one man holding and others on the team following — to track down the fires in the smoke-filled building. 
 
The four-story masonry building, constructed in the mid-1960s as East School to answer the city's baby boom, has been empty for nearly two years since the opening of Colegrove Park Elementary School. The $51,000-square-foot structure is for sale but has been used for storage by the School Department. 
 
The School Department has been securing the building and there has been a number of acts of vandalism in breaking windows. Those are have been boarded up but Meranti said there were a couple of spots on Friday night that someone could have gotten into the building. 
 
There were also four fire extinguishers lined up on the left pole of the lobby portico. Those were there when firefighters arrived and Meranti said it is not known who left them. 
 
The fire director said some of the materials still inside the school were burning in the fires. The largest was in the cafetorium in the front of the building where stacks of boxed up ceiling tiles were stored by the stage. 
 
He said there was a lot of smoke damage in the building and that the department was still forcing smoke for affected areas. A lot of the damage, particularly in the cafetorium, was to the materials being stored there. 
 
Once the extent of the situation was realized, all off-duty firefighters were called in and Adams Fire Department covered the city's station. 
 
North Adams Ambulance Service provided water and supplies; Clarksburg sent a truck to fill air bottles.
 
"We went through a lot of bottles because there's a lot of areas to cover," Meranti said. 
 
He said firefighters would be at the building for the rest of the night. It was not clear when more information would be available. 
 
"This is an active investigation," he said. 
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