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Smoking Materials Blamed for Fire at North Adams American Legion

By Tammy Daniels
iBerkshires Staff
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Smoking materials are believed to be the cause of a fire at the American Legion on Saturday night that forced the closure of the club. 
 
A fire was reported as being in the walls of the American Legion Drive structure shortly after 8 p.m. on Saturday. At least two dozen people were evacuated from the building and firefighters were quickly on the scene — the fire station is across the street from the post. 
 
The blaze appeared to be concentrated in the wall of the exit on the north end of the building, where a disposal container for cigarettes is located. Firefighters cut through the wall and up to the ceiling of the one-story building. The fire was considered contained by about 8:30 p.m. but firefighters were still using axes to open up the wall and spraying it with water. 
 
Fire Director Stephen Meranti said the building had to be closed because of smoke and the use of a fire extinguisher. The building was going to be ventilated and the building inspector would determine if it was suitable to reopen. 
 
Patrons, who gathered under nearby trees to avoid the rain, were told they would be allowed back to recover their belongings once some of the smoke was removed. 
 
No one was injured but the north entrance incurred significant damage from the fire and the efforts to contain it. 

     

Two Pedestrians Struck on West Main Street in North Adams

Staff Reports

The hood of the truck was popped open and dented. 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Two people were severely injured after being hit by a pickup truck early Tuesday evening while walking on the sidewalk along West Main Street. 
 
Tenisha Bessette, 23, and Daryl Boutin, 24, were struck from behind by a black 1999 Ford F-150 driven by Joshua Piantoni, 35, according to police. 
 
Sgt. James Burdick said Piantoni was eastbound on West Main when he "veered off the roadway onto the sidewalk, striking from behind."
 
Bessette and Boutin, both of North Adams, were immediately transported to Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield with "multiple injuries." 
 
Piantoni, also of North Adams, was arrested and charged with operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs, second offense; negligent operation, and a marked lanes violation. He was released on bail later in the evening and is expected to be arraigned on Wednesday morning. 
 
The accident occurred near 353 West Main St. at about 5:26 p.m. The Ford suffered some front-end damage, including dents on the hood where at least one of the pedestrians landed. It was taken away by Dean's Towing. 
 
 
 
     

North Adams Man Killed in Motorcycle Accident

Staff Reports

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A North Adams man was killed after the motorcycle he was driving collided with a car on Church Street on Friday evening.

According to the North Adams Police, Steven Fortier, 49, was driving his 2001 Harley-Davidson motorcycle southbound when he collided with a northbound car Friday night around 10 near 761 Church St. and near where the road forks between Church Street and Ashland Street. According to a press release from the Berkshire district attorney's office, first responders found Fortier lying in the roadway.

He was transported to Berkshire Medical Center's North Adams Campus, where he died from injuries.

Life Flight had initially been called to the scene.

The vehicle that collided with Fortier's motorcycle was a 2015 Audi driven by Joseph Thompson of Adams. Thompson is the director of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. Jodi Joseph of Williamstown, also an employee of Mass MoCA, was a passenger in the vehicle. They did not suffer serious injuries, officials said.

The accident is still under investigation by the North Adams Police Department, State Police detectives assigned to the district attorney's office and troopers from the Crime Scene Service Section and the Collision Analysis Reconstruction Section.

Traffic was rerouted during the accident. Church Street was reopened around 3 a.m.

According to Fortier's Facebook page, he was a self-employed Adams native and graduate of Hoosac Valley High School. Just three hours before the accident, he changed his cover picture to a photo of a motorcycle.

     

Basement Blaze Forces Evacuation of North Adams Holiday Inn

By Tammy Daniels
iBerkshires Staff
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Holiday Inn had to be evacuated around midnight on Monday after a fire in the boiler room sent smoke through the basement and into the first floor. 
 
The report of smoke in the building was reported shortly before midnight, right after firefighters finished responding to an alarm that went off at 85 Main St. (A number of automatic alarms have been triggered by the annual hydrant flushing over the past week or so.)
 
Fire Director Stephen Meranti said firefighters searched through the basement area and found the fire in a type of plastic trash container in the boiler room. 
 
"There was a lot of smoke in the basement, not much heat, but because we had so many people in the building we made an all-call," he said. Two shifts were dealing with smoke at the hotel while a third shift was covering the station, right across the street. 
 
Firefighters were able to snuff the blaze pretty quickly and were using fans to drive out the smoke. 
 
"The basement had the heaviest smoke, there was some light smoke on the first floor," Meranti said. "The upper floors appear to be OK, the stairwells are closed ... The stairwell doors automatically close so the smoke didn't get up to that point."
 
One guest said he'd come down from the fifth floor and could smell the smoke. It smelled like burning trash or plastic, he said. 
 
Firefighters accessed the basement from an exterior stairwell on the west side, near the Hadley Overpass, and worked their way through the pool area to the boiler room. 
 
"It was on fire when they opened the door. ... there was a lot of smoke coming through," Meranti said, adding a sprinkler head in the boiler room did go off, but not until firefighters were already in the room. 
 
The cause had not yet been determined early Tuesday morning. Meranti said they were focused on clearing the smoke and testing for carbon dioxide before letting guests back into the building. The health and building inspectors were also called to the scene. 
 
However, the area where the fire started was not open to the public, he said. "It was a secured area."
 
It was not clear how many guests were staying in the 90-room hotel but close to three dozen appeared to be outside. The former Sleepy's mattress store was opened for guests to wait but many were standing in the street. It was a mild night with temperatures in the high 50s. 
 
North Adams Ambulance Service had an ambulance at the scene and was overseeing access to the store. American Legion Drive was closed between Main and Summer streets to keep it clear for fire trucks.
 
"It was a quick knockdown, the guys did a good job knocking it down quick and it didn't spread to any other areas," Meranti said. 
     

Adams Man Killed in Head-on Collision Sunday

Staff Reports
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — An Adams man was killed Sunday night when the vehicle he was driving crossed the center line and collided with another car. 
 
The 77-year-old man, whose name is being withheld at this time, was southbound in a 2005 Nissan sedan when he failed to make the wide turn at Hodges Cross Road and veered into the northbound lane of South Church Street, according to Police Lt. Jason Wood. 
 
The Nissan crashed head-on into a 2008 Hyundai sport-utility vehicle headed north on South Church Street near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Skating Rink. 
 
The driver was extricated from his car and taken to Berkshire Medical Center's North Adams campus, said Wood. The passenger in his vehicle and the two occupants of the Hyundai were taken to BMC in Pittsfield with serious injuries, including possible broken bones. 
 
The crash occurred at about 9:01 p.m. and the road was closed in that section until 2 a.m. on Monday. Both vehicles were towed by Dean's Quality Auto.
 
Wood said the state police accident reconstruction team was called to the scene and he was awaiting the report. However, he said there did not appear to be any negligence or any indication that speed, alcohol or drugs were a factor in the crash. Police are leaning toward a medical incident as the cause, he said. 
 
The driver's name is expected to be released later Monday after police ensure that proper notification is complete. 
     
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