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Pittsfield Man Charged with Setting A-Mart Convenience Store Blaze

Staff Reports
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The A-Mart convenience store on North Street burned on Tuesday night.
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Screen capture taken from video by Patricia Devinez  here.
Update: PITTSFIELD,  Mass. — A Pittsfield man has been arrested in relation to the devastating fire that destroyed the A-Mart convenience store on Tuesday night.
 
Thomas Roberts, 51, was arrested Wednesday on charges of arson and injuring a firefighter. 
 
Authorities determined the blaze as suspicious after an investigation by the Detective Bureau and Crime Scene Services, along with fire investigators. The building is most likely a total loss. 
 
Roberts was located by members of the police anti-crime unit in a motel within the city. He is being charged with injuring a firefighter because one Pittsfield firefighter was taken to Berkshire Medical Center for a shoulder injury.
 
The investigators are thanking everyone who provided information, and businesses that provided access to their video surveillance systems, which enabled them to quickly resolve the case.

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Posted: 1:48 p.m., Oct. 16, 2019

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The double-alarm fire that destroyed the A-Mart Convenience & Liquor Store on Tuesday night is under investigation. 

 
Fire Chief Thomas Sammons said the structure was fully involved in flames when firefighters arrive just before 10:30 p.m.
 
"What we know for sure is the business closed at 10, and at 10:24 there was extensive fire in the loft area of the ceiling," he said on Wednesday. The chief said he has been in touch with investigators who are still searching for a cause. 
 
The blaze was called in by a passerby who saw flames on the outside of the building at 524 North St. Sammons said firefighters made an initial entry into the structure and realized it was much more extensive than first expected. 
 
"It was already running the length of that portion of the building," he said. "That whole section was involved in the ceiling area." 
 
Firefighters made a trench cut in the roof and found fire within the ceiling space. 
 
"This was way back from where the initial fire was on the outside of the building," Sammons said. "So nobody was allowed inside or on the roof."
 
The A-Mart is located in the western portion of the L-shaped building; a barber shop is in the section at the back of the parking lot and that parallels North Street.
 
Fire crews directed streams of water into the building and North Street was closed between Linden Street and Madison Avenue. The initial working group called a double alarm to bring in more manpower with another truck company, and an additional engine company and a ladder truck from Lenox and Dalton.
 
Sammons estimated it took about two hours to bring the inferno under control and crews remained on scene all night putting out hotspots. 
 
Images on social media showed heavy smoke billowing up from North Street and flames within the building. 
 
The popular store was open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. and had offered a variety of grocery, pharmacy and convenience needs, including liquor. The one thing it didn't have was gasoline. 
 
On Wednesday morning, the area around the building was cordoned off and a fire truck was on scene. The store's jaunty sign still towered over the plaza but the owners of the structure declined to speak to media.  
 
The business had been run by a local family for some three decades before being purchased by a Chelmsford company, Sonal Patel LLC, for $1,113,691 in September 2017. 
 
The A-Mart section of the building is a total loss but the barbershop side was saved. 
 
"The crews worked very hard and were able to prevent it going to the other side, the barbershop," Sammons said. "So they were able to save part of the building, at least."
 
The chief confirmed that one firefighter was taken to Berkshire Medical Center for treatment of a shoulder injury. The individual was treated and released with his arm in a sling but is expected to recover. 
 
"It was a lot of hard work and the guys did a great job," the chief said. 
 
Complete write-thru 1:48 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019; original post 1:24 a.m., Oct. 15.
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