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Fire Destroys Pittsfield Storage Shed
Staff Reports On: 12:03PM / Monday May 11, 2015
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A storage shed was destroyed Sunday after a refuse fire was left unattended.
 
According to Deputy Fire Chief Steven Peaslee, a 25-foot by 12-foot storage shed is a total loss at 275 Highland Ave. The shed stored a lawn mower, bicycle, outboard motor, construction materials and other household items and will cost an estimated $50,000 to replace, according to fire officials.

A smaller storage shed at 275 Highland and a garage next door at 279 Highland Ave. were damaged somewhat from exposure to the intense heat from the fire.

The cause is undetermined and the investigation is ongoing, according to Peaslee, however, the "probable cause is an unattended, unauthorized, nearby refuse fire within 15 to 20 feet of the outbuilding."
 
The owners of the property said they were burning construction-type wood debris the night before. The shed caught fire around 1 in the afternoon when nobody was home. The call was placed by a neighbor, who saw smoke, and no injuries were reported.
 
"Firefighters quickly knocked down the fire under high-heat conditions from both the fire and warm weather," Peaslee said in a release.
 
Highland Avenue was closed briefly while the firefighters battled the blaze. Firefighters used "several hand lines" to extinguish the fire.
 
"The storage shed was fully involved on our arrival. Heavy, black smoke plume could be seen for miles atop the hill on Highland," the release reads.


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Accident Closes North Adams' State Street For Hours
Staff Reports On: 03:32PM / Thursday May 07, 2015
A pole sheared off in an accident on Thursday morning caused a section of State Street to be closed down.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Southbound traffic over the Hadley Overpass and Street Street was disrupted for most of the day after a one-car accident sheared off a pole early Thursday morning.

According to the police log, a 1998 Toyota Corolla driven by an  Adams woman collided with the utility pole at the corner of State Street and Christopher Columbus Avenue.

The crash occurred at about 7:30 a.m. and police, fire and North Adams Ambulance Service responded to the scene.

At least one person was taken to the hospital and the road was closed until National Grid could replace the pole. Northbound traffic was detoured up Walnut Street and over Furnace Street; southbound traffic was still being sent over Ashland or Church streets at 3:30 p.m.



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Lanesborough Police Investigating Crash That Killed New Ashford Woman
By Andy McKeever On: 02:36PM / Wednesday May 06, 2015

LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — Police are investigating a one-car accident that killed a 51-year-old New Ashford woman on Thursday night.

Sheryl A. Surprenant of State Road in New Ashford was driving northbound on Route 7 when her car crossed lanes and went off the road, crashing through the sign for the former Lamp Post Motel, on the southbound side, said police.

Officers responded at  9:22 p.m. to the report of a vehicle off the road near the motel on Route 7. The Chrysler had flipped and was lodged in trees and brush.

"The vehicle was on its roof and in the trees. She was pronounced dead on the scene," said Sgt. Gary Kirby on Wednesday. "It was a very difficult extrication by Lanesborough Fire and EMS."

A passerby, who works in the tree removal business, reported the accident and began clearing brush until emergency responders arrived. Speed was a factor based on evidence at the scene and a witness account, according to police, but the rest of the circumstances are still under investigation.

The accident caused some backed up traffic but the road remained open.

Kirby was not on the scene that night but Officers Brad Lepicier and Robert Moore, and Investigator Timothy Sorrell responded along with Lanesborough firefighters, emergency medical services, and County Ambulance. The Massachusetts State Police accident reconstruction team is assisting with the investigation.

Suprenant, a Pittsfield native, resided for many years in Southwick before returning to the area.



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Clarksburg Brush Fire Contained on Third Day
By Tammy Daniels On: 11:49PM / Friday May 01, 2015
The fire burns up The Dome on Friday in this image taken by Fire Director Stephen Meranti.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — More than 50 firefighters from around the region spent a third tough day finally containing a blaze that has burned an estimated 300 acres in the Clarksburg State Forest.

The brush fire had torched 189 acres on Thursday but crews had left the forest in the late afternoon believing it was contained and nearly out.

Clarksburg Fire Chief Kyle "Chip" Chesbro, who had coordinated efforts on Thursday, said the Department of Conservation and Recreation had planned on going in on Friday morning and ensuring it was extinguished.

"This morning at 6 o'clock I get another call that it has grown, that we needed to get people started up there," the soot-covered chief said on Friday after spending the day in the woods.

The fire had rekindled by early Thursday evening; numerous photos on Facebook showed a ring of smoldering orange high on the ridgeline.

Firefighters had to make their way up through rough terrain, including through Pine Cobble on the west end, to about a 2,000 foot elevation.

The hardest part has been accessibility, Chesbro said.

"If you can drive a fire truck in, a class a fire truck, you can put a lot of water out here. These brush trucks have water but the terrain up there is so bad, accessibility is just horrendous," he said. "When you get to the scene, working the scene, there's all brambles, and trees down and the incline and stuff like that you're trying to work on and the footing ... It's just not a good situation."

Indian Pump water packs were brought in by all-terrain vehicles and crews used shovels, chainsaws and leafblowers to clear the dry underbrush for digging breaks.

The fire began early Wednesday afternoon when a cook fire at the Sherman Brook primitive camping area went out of control. The campsite is nearly 2 miles in on the Appalachian Trail from Massachusetts Avenue.

The forest is in the far western end of Clarksburg, bounded by North Adams, Williamstown and Pownal. It's separated from Clarksburg State Park (Mauserts) by about 3 miles.

The blaze extended in a ring around the camping area and, on Thursday evening, "slopped over" the fire break that had been made to contain it. The secondary fire pushed westward up toward the top of The Dome, just north of Pine Cobble.

"They set it up with the left flank and a right flank with The Dome in the middle ... the heaviest fire was really on the right flank toward Clarksburg," North Adams Fire Director Stephen Meranti said. "They did a really good job of knocking it down.  

"Again, it was really difficult to get to ... the access today was a little easier because they could get ATVs closer to the fire."

Meranti could only recall a fire of this size back in the 1970s, not far from the state forest.

Fire crews were planning on going in again on Saturday morning to check for hotspots and DCR will have people on site to monitor the area for the next few days.

No one was injured, though there some scrapes, bruises and blisters, and no homes or private property were ever in any danger.

On Thursday, a National Guard Black Hawk helicopter spent hours ferrying 500 gallons of water at a time from Mount Williams Reservoir to dump on the fire's perimeter.

A state police helicopter aided in aerial observations on Friday and several local pilots took Meranti to survey operations over the past few days.

The mobile command center was set up on Pattison Road to allow for clearer communications and staging was at the Blackinton Mill on Ashton Avenue.

DCR's Chief Fire Warden David Celino was at the command center along with other state and local fire officials.

About a dozen departments have been working the blaze, including Williamstown and Adams departments and forest wardens, Clarksburg, Dalton, Florida, Hinsdale, Lanesborough, New Ashford, Richmond, Windsor, and Pownal and Stamford, Vt., DCR forest wardens and the state forest fire control.

North Adams Fire Department provided backup coverage; other services were provided by the Berkshire County Fire Chiefs, North Adams Ambulance Service, Pittsfield Fire Department, National Guard, Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency and the Northern Berkshire Emergency Planning Committee.

Meranti said the community has been very supportive, with people dropping off food and water.

"One guy stopped by and dropped off pizza," he said. "I don't even know who it was."

Both he and Chesbro stressed their appreciation of the volunteers and others who had put so much effort in over the past few days.

"The town of Clarksburg and the Clarksburg Fire Company would really want to thank all the departments who are working here, all the organizations, DCR , MEMA, everyobody involved," Chesbro said. "It's a lot, a lot of work.

"These guys are taking time out of their day, we really appreciated it."


Update 1:40 p.m., May 1, 2015

Fire crews are in the woods for the third day battling an extensive brush fire in the 3,000-acre Clarksburg State Forest.

At this time, the slow-moving fire has expanded but is not considered dangerous to homes in the area.

The fire had been considered contained on Thursday night but apparently fueled back late yesterday.

Update 8:45 p.m., April 30, 2015

North Adams Police reports the brush fire is contained but still smoking on the mountain.

Fire crews spent much of the day tamping hotspots taking measure to contain the outbreak that reportedly burned about 180 acres. 

The fire began in the Sherman Brook area from a cooking fire and spread outward in a circular pattern.

Update: 11:33 a.m., April 30, 2015

Some 40 firefighters are in the Clarksburg State Forest battling a brush fire that began Wednesday afternoon. About 60 firefighters were on the scene on Thursday, with staging continuing at Ashley Swift & Sons on Massachusetts Avenue.

A National Guard helicopter has been scooping 500 gallons of water at a time from Mount Williams Reservoir and carrying over the fire deep within the mountainous state forest.

Clarksburg Fire Chief Kyle "Chip" Chesbro said the fire is 4,000 feet into the woods.

"It took our guys this morning an hour to hike into it," he said.

Fire crews are using Indian Pumps, a backpack form of water suppression equipment, and portable water tanks to draw from. They are also using shovels and chainsaws to create a break.

"We went from huge head fire front to a controllable front overnight," Chesbro said, adding the humidity, temperatures and morning dew had helped in containing the blaze.

The helicopter out of Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield was dropping about 2 tons of water each time it flew over, he said. It was expected to stay for about an hour before it had to head back to Westfield.

Agencies participating are Williamstown, Clarksburg, Stamford, Florida, Windsor, Dalton, Adams, Lanesborough, Pownal, North Adams and Forest Wardens, Department of State Fire Control, Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, Berkshire County Fire and North Adams Ambulance.
 


 

Update 9 a.m., April 30, 2015: Twelve agencies are now working to extinguish the fire in the Clarksburg State Forest, according to a post by the Northern Berkshire Regional Emergency Planning Committee.

"All together, we have approximately 60 firefighters and command staff on scene consisting of Williamstown, Clarksburg, Stamford, Florida, Windsor, Dalton, Adams, Lanesboro, Pownal, North Adams Firefighters and Forest Wardens. Department of State Fire Control, Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, Berkshire County Fire and North Adams Ambulance."

The fire had "settled" somewhat during the night because higher humidity and lower temperatures. "This is a contributing factor to why the decision is made to remove crews and not risk there safety during the night hours," according to REPC's Amalio Jusino.

Firefighters were using aerial observations to locate and evaluate the blaze.

Update at 9 p.m., April 29, 2015 (original post at 7:39 p.m.)

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A nearly 40-acre brush fire was burning beyond a ridge line in the Clarksburg State Forest on Wednesday night.

The glow could be seen from the south side of Route 2 in the city and smoke hung in the air.

Fire crews had been working the blaze since late in the afternoon but had to pull back as the light dimmed.

"Everybody is out of the woods as far as the fire departments," said James Howe of the Clarksburg Fire Department, the incident commander for the fire. "We're out for the night. We'll be meeting back here with other departments to go back in in the morning."

The fire was first reported before 2 p.m. by a hiker somewhere along the Appalachian Trail in the forest off Massachusetts Avenue. Initial reports described it as a cooking fire gone out of control. There was a burning smell throughout the downtown area.

Airport manager Bill Greenwall flew the fire director over the fire so they could get a better understanding of where it was.

"The hiker that reported it had hiked north to stay away from it so he was farther up the trail," Howe said. "He was found complaining about dehydration ... he was taken out through Williamstown, from the Pine Cobble Trail."

According to scanner reports, the rattled hiker was trying to come down from Pine Cobble but was told to head back that way to be taken out. About 4:30, he was described as being about a half-mile from Pine Cobble.

Firefighters from Clarksburg and Stamford, Vt., were in the woods earlier in the afternoon with firefighting gear and chainsaws; other units were being positioned. Clarksburg firefighters were taking the lead because the state forest is within Clarksburg.

Adams Forest Wardens, Williamstown Fire Department and Forest Wardens, North Adams Fire Department and forest wardens with the state Department of Conservation and Recreation were also mobilized. North Adams Ambulance was also at a staging area at Ashley Swift on Massachusetts Avenue. The North Adams Mobile Command was being used in tandem with the communications center at the ambulance station.

Howe had said earlier in the afternoon they were being careful about going into the forest and retrieving the hiker.

"We want to make sure we do things safely and that we do things right," he said about 6 p.m..

"We have firefighters searching for the fire right now ... We have crews from everyone I told you here."

The smoke could be seen billowing over the mountain ridge from Route 2, and appeared to be coming from a hollow. Reports put it near the Sherman Brook Campsite area, between one and two miles from the main road.

The fire was thought to cover about 40 acres in the 3,000-acre state forest. Almost 5 miles of the Appalachian Trail cuts through the forest on its way to Vermont.



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Superior Court Briefs: April 27 - April 30
Staff Reports On: 10:40AM / Friday May 01, 2015
Cases heard before Judge Daniel Ford on Monday, April 27.
 
Jason Fuller, 38, of Pittsfield pleaded guilty to four counts of breaking and entering in the nighttime, three counts of larceny over $250, two counts of larceny from a building, two counts of breaking into a depository, and single counts of breaking and entering in the daytime, illegal possession of a firearm, receiving or possessing a stolen motor vehicle, and common and notorious thief.
 
He was ordered to serve concurrent three to four years at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction on all of the charges except the weapon charge. He was given concurrent time at the Berkshire County House of Correction on that charge. 
 
The charges stem from a series of break ins in Pittsfield between June 1, 2011 and September 13, 2011 as well as break ins at a storage facility in Hinsdale between August 14, 2011 and August 15, 2011.
 
Twenty counts of vandalize property, 19 counts of breaking and entering in the nighttime, 19 counts of breaking and entering in the daytime, seven counts of carrying a dangerous weapon, six counts of illegal possession of a firearm, and single counts of larceny from a building, possession of burglarious tools, receiving stolen property over $250, and armed career felon were all dismissed by the state.
 
Cases heard before Judge Daniel Ford on Tuesday, April 28.
 
Hammad Singleton, 37, of Bronx, N.Y. pleaded guilty to a single count of possession of heroin with intent to distribute.
 
He was ordered to serve six months at the Berkshire County House of Correction. The incident occurred in North Adams between January 1, 2013 and November 26, 2013. Single counts of trafficking in cocaine, possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, and conspiracy to violate drug laws were dismissed by the state.
 
Cases heard before Judge Daniel Ford on Thursday, April 30.
 
Timothy Domina, 30, of Pittsfield pleaded guilty to a single count of aggravated assault and battery.
 
He was ordered to serve three to three and a half years at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction. Domina assaulted an another inmate at the Berkshire County House of Correction while being housed there on July 16, 2014.


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News Headlines
Holiday Hours: Independence Day
Fourth of July Festivities Include Parades, Fireworks
The Classical Beat: All Systems Go At Tanglewood
North Adams Director Wins Massachusetts Emergency Manager of The Year Award
North Adams Happenings: July 1-7
Village Ambulance Adds Vans With Wheelchair Lifts
Report: Local Nonprofits Generate $2.4 Billion In Economic Activity
Cheshire Will Hold Another Override Vote
Teddy's Tops WPT in Giorgi League
Bennington Tops Lanesborough 11-year-olds

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