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North Adams Apartment Fire Forces Out Five Families

By Tammy Daniels
iBerkshires Staff

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — At least 20 people were forced from their apartments on Wednesday afternoon after a fire broke out in the attic above one of the units.

The report of a fire in one of the rear units in the six-apartment building on Crossey Place came in before 3 p.m. The call came into dispatch from a resident in the apartment who said her walls were warm and "turning black."

"There was a report of the walls turning black and paint bubbling on the walls, said Fire Chief Stephen Meranti. "We did indeed find the wall turning black and the paint bubbling."

An all-call was put out to bring in off-duty firefighters; three engines including the ladder truck were at the scene along with police, North Adams Ambulance Service and Animal Control.

"When we came down the street, smoke was coming out of the eaves all along the whole building, so that's when I initially called for an all-call," said acting Lt. Stefan Lamarre, who arrived with D group. Meranti had already called for A group to get them rolling. "Luckily there wasn't much of a fire load up there so it didn't spread. It could have been a heck of a lot worse."

The attic bay on the long two-story building is open all the way through, which could have led to a much worse fire, Meranti said.

"It appears to be knob and tube wiring in the attic with insulation blown around it," he said, which did not allow for heat from the wires to dissipate, plus a cabinet was on top of that section of the attic floor. "It heated up in the joist space and extended through several bays and dropped down."

The key to containing the fire was the speed at which the first group got in, located it and got a line on it, Meranti said. "It was good work by the guys that initially hit this."

Police Sgt. James Burdick said one of the hydrants near the structure didn't work and would be addressed to the city but everything else went smoothly. No one was injured and River Street was blocked between Houghton and Brown.

"We had people on scene in less than a minute," he said.

Meranti said everyone works together as a team.

The occupants, numbering between 20 and 25, were quickly evacuated from the structure but found themselves standing in the snow in frigid temperatures. Porches Inn opened up its lobby to keep them warm until the Red Cross could arrive and situate them for the night. Building owner Michael Deep also arrived to speak with his tenants. 

The damage appeared to be contained to the back two units, which suffered fire, smoke and water damage. The back units cannot be occupied until the electrical repairs and some structural work is completed. The rest of the apartments escaped damage but the power was shut off.

"They do have an electrician on site and he's going to try to get power so no one loses their Thanksgiving food that's in the freezers," Meranti said. "We're trying to get everything back on so they can get back in for Thanksgiving. That's our goal."

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Body Discovered In Windsor Lake in North Adams

Staff Reports

 

The body was discovered in the lake Friday morning.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The body of a 63-year-old North Adams man was found in Windsor Lake.
 
Police say the body of Leszek Godyn of Arnold Place was discovered at 8 a.m. Friday morning.
 
The incident remains under investigation but the district attorney's office says it "does not appear to be suspicious at this time."
 
Police Director Michael Cozzaglio confirmed that police received a report at 7:48 a.m. from someone who said they saw a body lying in the water.
 
Police, EMS, and fire responded to the lake, where Godyn's body was found in the shallow water at the fishing area near the concession stand. Firefighters were able to remove him from the water.
 
"We're trying to determine what brought this person up to the lake and what happened," Cozzaglio said, adding again that it did not appear suspicious. 
 
The investigation is being conducted by members of the North Adams Police Department, state police, and the district attorney's office. 
 
The entrance of the lake was blocked Friday morning for more than an hour during the recovery.
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North Adams Apartment Blaze Doused; West Main Closed

By Jack Guerino
iBerkshires Staff

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Firefighters quickly knocked down fire in a storage area at a West Main Street apartment building on Thursday.

Fire Director Stephen Meranti said only one tenant was in the building and he was quickly evacuated.

Meranti said the Fire Department arrived at 75 West Main St around 2:30 p.m. after receiving a report of smoke coming out of a second-story window. It was initially described as a structure fire.

"The guys got on scene, and they saw smoke," he said. "We had smoke coming from the bedroom window on the second floor. ...

"The guys went in, found the tenant and escorted him out," he said. "He was OK. He was just trying to put the fire out with a portable extinguisher."

Meranti said a pre-connected hose was weaved through a room, a bedroom and into the storage room on the eastern side of the flat-iron building where the fire broke out. Firefighters tossed items out of the window to get to the fire.

"It was contained in that one room, and the stuff was not really that burned," he said. "We just had to get down to where it was burning."

Meranti said power had to be shut off to the apartment and to the one below it because water had to be used to extinguish the fire. He said an electrician will have to come in and inspect the apartments before the tenants can occupy them.

Meranti said all in all the fire was contained and knocked down quickly.

The guys did a good job," he said. "Early detection, quick response and aggressive interior attack. That is how you keep a small fire small."

He said the cause of the fire is still under investigation. The road was closed from the east end of the Memorial Bridge to Brown Street for more than an hour.

North Adams Police and Ambulance were on scene as well as the Wire and Alarm Division and Berkshire Gas. The building is owned by Charles Swabey.

Meranti added that at the same time, there was a one-car accident on Pattison Road that resulted in no injuries. All off-duty firefighters were called in to assist.

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North Adams Police Seeking Information on Break-Ins

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Police Department is asking for assistance in investigating a number of break-ins in the Church Street area after another home was robbed Tuesday afternoon.

According to the department, it is working closely with the campus police at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts Campus Police on multiple reports of homes burglarized in the areas around Church Street and Ashland Street.

"We would like to reach out to anyone who lives in the area that may have seen our possible suspects or who has video surveillance on their home," the department requested on its Facebook page.

The suspect or suspects may have been carrying televisions, monitors or computers.

On Tuesday, money and two televisions were taken from a home between noon and 1 p.m.

Two individuals possibly involved are described as white men standing 5-foot-7 to 5-foot-9. One was wearing dark jeans, dark long-sleeve shirt and a ball cap. The second  was wearing orange or red shorts and a white T-shirt, and had facial stubble and blonde or red hair with a recent close crew cut.

They were last seen running in the area of Hoosac Hall at MCLA off Highland Avenue.

There was a separate report of a home having been entered on Elmwood Avenue sometime between Aug. 17 and Aug. 18 when a television was taken.

Police are asking homeowners to not publicly disclose that they have knowledge of the incidents or that they may have footage of the individuals but to contact the North Adams Police Department and request to speak with an officer.

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North Adams Firefighters Rescue Man From Gorge

By Tammy Daniels
iBerkshires Staff

Firefighter Matthew Davis calls down to Taylor Sheldon as he puts on a safety harness.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Firefighters rescued a 21-year-old man Thursday night who became trapped in a gorge at Natural Bridge State Park.

Taylor Sheldon of North Adams had been swimming with friends at the park when the group headed back up toward where their car was parked at the Franklin Street gate. Sheldon, however, climbed up through a waterfall and became separated from the group, said Officer Kyle Cahoon.

The found him nearly an hour later stuck in the dark in the rushing water at the bottom of the 60-foot gorge. He couldn't make his way back down in the dark and couldn't get out from the top.

Firefighter Matthew Davis took the lead in the rescue as a member of the Western Massachusetts Regional Technical Rescue Team. Fire Director Stephen Meranti said the other firefighters were also trained in rope rescue at an operational level.

A harnessed Davis worked his way through the bushes at the top of the gorge down to spot where he could speak to Sheldon as other first-responders watched from the bridge over the chasm.

There was difficulty in communicating with Sheldon over the roar of the water and flashlights were used to help orient him toward Davis.

"Down in gorge, it's not conducive to sound to begin with plus the water, it amplifies and echoes in there," said Sgt. James Burdick.

Two cruisers were turned to put headlights on the area so the rescue team could see to gear up. Sheldon was dropped a harness to put on to aid in the rescue and a ladder was lowered down to him.

"You want to pick the safest way to pull him out of there and it really was by ladder," Meranti said. "You lower the ladder down and let him climb up ... if he was unconscious or anything like that we would have put him in a Stokes basket and use a really intricate hauling system get him out of there."

Sheldon was alert and conscious able to climb up the ladder. But he was chilled from standing in the water for nearly two hours.

He was, however, released to family after being checked out by emergency medical technicians.

"It worked great with the police officers here, the ambulance EMTs were right in with us," said Meranti. "Everybody worked well together."

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