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Pittsfield Home on Highland Avenue Destroyed By Fire

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff

Lanesborough resident Brian Johnson happened to be driving in the area when the fire began. He shared his photos of the blaze with iBerkshires.com. 
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Fire destroyed a city couple's Highland Avenue home Friday afternoon.
 
Deputy Chief Andrew Stephenson said a passerby noticed the outside of the home on fire at about 3:30 and called 911. Upon arrival, firefighters found the exterior on fire.
 
"The exterior of the house, the left side, was pretty heavily involved in fire. It was obvious the fire started on the outside of the house. While crews were here, it burned into the second floor through the window. It burned up the wall, through the window, burned up to the roofline, and got up into the attic," Stephenson said.
 
Stephenson said it isn't known exactly what caused the fire but investigators have pinpointed the origin and are narrowing in on a cause. The owner was working in a woodshop in the rear of the property at the time and the house was out of his view when the fire started.
 
Neither occupant was injured in the blaze and firefighters were able to rescue two cats. However, a third cat perished in the fire. 
 
Stephenson said the homeowners declined assistance from the Red Cross and will find alternative housing on their own. He said the home suffered heavy damage and is likely considered beyond repair.
 
The department first responded with three engine companies, a ladder truck, and a deputy chief but quickly called for two more engine companies. 
 
"It was just a hot, humid day so it is hard for the crews to work. You always have to worry about heat exposure so that's why the on-duty deputy called Hinsdale rehab trailer. They come with water, a bus with air conditioning," Stephenson said.
 

The two-alarm fire was called in around 3:30 in the afternoon.
The deputy chief said the fire had burned to a point where there was little they could do to halt the damage. But he credited firefighters for their efforts in stopping the blaze quickly after arriving.
 
"They did an outstanding job. They encountered an involved full side of the house. The damage was done pretty much prior to the Fire Department getting here but they did a great job knocking it down and putting the rest of the fire out. It is pretty tough in the hot conditions," Stephenson said.
 
Hinsdale and Lanesborough both arrived on scene for assistance and Lenox, Dalton, and another crew from Lanesborough covered city stations. 
 
At the same time as firefighters worked on Highland Avenue, Stephenson said another fire call came in. At that scene, a mattress had caught on fire and an off-duty firefighter who lived in the neighborhood was able to drag it out of the home, preventing a structure fire there.
     

Overheated Pump Fills Pittsfield Home With Smoke

Staff Reports
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A city woman helped her elderly neighbor after a water pump overheated and filled her Parkside Avenue home with smoke.
 
According to residents on scene, the woman who lives at 148 Parkside Ave. fled the home after smoke filled the first floor. A neighbor saw her, ran over and helped her get away. She then called 911.
 
The Fire Department arrived shortly after and began searching for the potential fire. Ultimately the department determined that it was an overheated pump that began filling the home with smoke.
 
Firefighters ventilated the home and paramedics on scene evaluated the older woman. 
     

Missing Pittsfield Man's Body Found Off West Street

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The body of a Pittsfield man missing since Saturday was found Monday afternoon in Hancock.
 
Investigators say the death of 66-year-old Dan Lewis does not appear to be suspicious.
 
Pittsfield Police received a 911 call shortly after 4 p.m. saying a person had been found unresponsive about a quarter mile past the locked gate at the end of West Street. When first responders arrived at the scene, they found the body of Lewis, who was reported missing Saturday evening.
 
He was last seen on video surveillance walking west on East Street in front of Berkshire Mazda at 9:05 p.m. on Saturday, and near a home at the intersection of Dalton and Plastic avenues. It was theorized he may have been heading to Stephentown, N.Y., where he had previously lived, or Hinsdale, where he grew up.
 
The investigation is being conducted by state police detectives assigned to the district attorney's office and by members of the Pittsfield Police Department.
     

Pittsfield Police Ask Residents to Stop Sharing Facebook Image

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Pittsfield Police are asking residents to stop sharing an image from Facebook with a sarcastic message about school shootings. 
 
According to a post on the department's Facebook page, the message is not directed at Pittsfield but rather Pittsfield, N.H.
 
"For the past 24-plus hours we have been inundated by messages with this image," the post states. "We followed up upon receiving the first message and it was immediately clear this was NOT Pittsfield MA." 
 
The message stated "whoever plans on shooting up a school next, please pick Pittsfield. Thank you." The post by the girl was accompanied by a smiley face with a halo. 
 
The Concord (N.H.) Monitor reported on Thursday that a student was banned from the Pittsfield Middle High School in New Hampshire while what police described as a threat was being investigated. The post was apparently made on the student's Facebook page sometime Tuesday.  
 
Pittsfield, Mass., Police noted that the authorities in Pittsfield, N.H., are aware of the post. 
 
"PLEASE stop sharing this image as it is only creating mass confusion in and around our community. We understand the reason why people have shared but PLEASE STOP. Thank you," the police asked. 
     

Woman Found Not Guilty in Williamstown Hit-and-Run

Staff Reports
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A Williamstown woman was found not guilty on Wednesday of leaving the scene of a hit-and-run that has left a local woman in a coma for two years. 
 
But she and her husband were both found guilty of misleading police in the days following the incident that seriously injured Cheryl J. LeClaire, 54, of White Oaks Road in Williamstown. They were found not guilty of conspiracy to mislead. 
 
A Superior Court jury deliberated for eight hours before returning the verdicts in the cases against Sally J. Gould, 73, the driver in the incident, and her husband, John T. Gould, 71.
 
LeClaire was walking her dog on the evening of Feb. 9, 2016, along North Hoosac Road in Williamstown. A passing motorist found her lying in the road, unresponsive, at about 6:30 p.m. She was taken to Berkshire Medical Center with severe head trauma. Her dog was unharmed. 
 
Police investigators believed that LeClaire had been struck or brushed by a passing vehicle but there was little physical evidence at the scene and no witnesses. Some automotive materials led police to look for a Honda CRV with front-end damage.
 
The Goulds were arrested two weeks later and charged with misleading police in their investigation and conspiracy to mislead a police officer. Sally Gould was also charged with leaving the scene of a personal injury accident. 
 
The charges were based on actions taken by the Goulds to repair their 2014 Honda CRV, including replacing a windshield. Defensive attorneys argued that the sport utility vehicle being parked outside during this time and John Gould's willingness to speak to police showed there was no attempt to cover anything up. However, authorities said the Goulds gave inconsistent statements and told them the damage had occurred in a parking lot collision.
 
Judge John Agostini released both Goulds on personal recognizance pending sentencing on March 26 at 2 p.m.
     
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