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Pittsfield Firefighters Busy With Third Fire in 24 Hours

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff

Firefighters tackled two fires on Tuesday: an apartment fire on Columbus Avenue (above) and a house fire at 20 Larch St.

Updated at 11:58 a.m. with third fire report.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — City firefighters are being kept on their toes this week. The department's dealt with three structures fires in 24 hours.

"We certainly have days we have structure fires, but to get three in a 24-hour period is kind of unusual for us," Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski said right after his crews snuffed out an apartment fire on Tuesday morning. "The guys held up very well, they're not ready to call it quits yet."

The chief did not think there was a pattern to the fires.

"It all seems to be accidental," he said, with "nothing incendiary."

On Monday at about 11:30 a.m. firefighters snuffed out a structure fire at 15 Miller St., which is off Lakeway Drive.

On Tuesday, at about 8:30, firefighters put out a blaze on the other side of the city, at 20 Larch St.; two hours later, they were at 297 Columbus Ave. dealing with the grease fire

"It came in as a kitchen fire, heavy smoke on arrival," Czerwinski said. "We had a kitchen burning on the third floor, Apt. 9 in a 11-unit building." 

The fire was knocked down fairly quickly but the family - two adults and four children - were displaced. The Red Cross was expected at the scene shortly to help them. No one was injured and no other apartments were affected.

"We're pretty confident [it was a cooking fire]," he said. "The occupants told us what happened."

It was a little less clear how the fire at 20 Larch St. began.

"Fire crews arrived at 20 Larch St. a little before 9 o'clock this morning. They found heavy fire coming out of the back kitchen area. They made an aggressive attack to the indoors and knocked that fire down," Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski said.

"There was some extension into the living area and some down into the basement."

By 9 a.m., crews had already put out the blaze, which Czerwinski said appears to have started in the kitchen. He said nobody was home at the time and the neighbors called in the blaze when they saw flames and smoke coming through the rear windows.

"This was cooking for a little while before it was discovered," Czerwinski said.

That structure fire nearly caused the closure of Merrill Road. Fire officials said they considered closing Merrill Road but ultimately determined they didn't need access to the fire hydrant.

"They called extra resources in," Czerwinski said, of what came close to being a two-alarm fire. "There are probably 14, 15 firefighters here."

There is smoke and heat damage throughout the home, he said, but the fire itself was mostly contained in the rear of the building. According to land records, the home is owned by Alliance Properties LLC. 

Later, Deputy Andrew Stephenson reported that two adults and three children were displaced. The Red Cross was being called to assist them with finding lodging. 

Czerwinski said fire inspectors will hopefully determine the cause by the end of the day.

On Monday, a woman was displaced from her Miller Street home after a first-floor couch caught on fire. Luckily, one of the city's deputy chiefs live across the street and when his wife noticed the smoke, she quickly called 911.

"She knew what to call in and what to say so they knew there was fire," Czerwinski said.

Again, in short order firefighters contained the blaze that had spread from the first floor up to the attic in the rear of the building.

"They think that was caused by careless smoking. The fire appeared to have originated from a couch on the first floor," Czerwinski said.

The homeowner, Margaret Anne Miller, was not home at the time and she is currently displaced from the home. Czerwinski said that fire is still under investigation.


Police Seeking Information on Missing Pittsfield Girl

Hayleigh Jacobs was last seen on Saturday at the Berkshire Mall.

***CANCEL: Cancel the Missing Person Report. Hayleigh has been located and is safe and sound. Thank you for your assistance and shares. CANCEL***

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Police are seeking help in the search for a missing 16-year-old Pittsfield girl.

Hayleigh Jacobs was last seen on Saturday, May 16, at the Berkshire Mall in Lanesborough at about 9:45 a.m. with two men or boys, both of slim build and with short hair, and a woman or girl who stands about 5-foot-2 with long brown hair.

Jacobs is described as white, approximately 5-foot-5 tall and weighing 114 pounds. She has brown hair and green eyes and was last seen wearing multicolored leggings and a grey sweat shirt. She had attended Drury High School.

Anyone with information regarding Hayleigh Jacobs or her whereabouts is asked to contact Pittsfield Police at 413-448-9700.


Former Pittsfield Councilor Pleads Guilty to Drug Charges

Staff Reports

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A former city councilor and local businessman, Paul J. Capitanio, was given two years' probation after pleading guilty to drug possession and tipping off his oxycodone supplier to police raids.

The 58-year-old Capitanio appeared before Judge C. Jeffrey Kinder in Berkshire Superior Court on Wednesday.

He pleaded guilty to single counts of accessory after the fact of distribution of oxycodone and conspiracy to violate drug laws (possession of oxycodone).

Capitanio warned his oxycodone supplier about drug task force raids being planned in spring 2013 during the investigation of the . He was charged in August of that year and, at the time, admitted he had an oxycodone addiction.

Kinder placed him on probation on the condition Capitanio refrain from using illegal drugs and undergo drug testing during the two-year probationary period.      

Capitanio was elected in 2009 and served two terms representing Ward 3. The investigation was conducted by members of the Berkshire County Law Enforcement Task Force.


Fire Destroys Pittsfield Storage Shed

Staff Reports
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.

Lanesborough Police Investigating Crash That Killed New Ashford Woman

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff

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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