Firefighters knocked down a blaze at a home on Columbus Avenue.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Firefighters responded to a two-alarm fire Tuesday afternoon at 237 Columbus Ave.
The fire in the two-story home was reported at 1:18 p.m. The occupant and two cats and two small dogs escaped the building.
Heavy black smoke was pouring from the upper floors of the home; flames could be seen shooting from back of the building.
"As they pulled out of headquarters, they had a large column of fire and smoke coming right up in front of them," said Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski.
He said the first deputy on the scene requested a second alarm; the 19 firefighters on duty responded and off-duty ones were called in to cover the station.
The building incurred heavy damage and is likely to be condemned. The fire started on the east side and quickly spread into the attic.
"The siding on this building is an old asphalt-shingle siding that we commonly refer to as 'gasoline siding' and it really propogates a fire very quickly," said Czerwinski. "It was that siding that created a lot of fire and a lot of smoke."
The building, which dates to 1850, is a single-family home that at some point had been renovated into three apartments, according to city records, but was restored to a single-family again.
The fire chief recalled there had been some spot fires in the building eight or 10 years ago and it was a vacant single-family at that time. "I didn't realize somebody was in here trying to rehabilitate it," he said.
Czerwinski expected crews to be on the scene the rest of the afternoon as the cause of the blaze is investigated. The American Red Cross also provided one adult who was displaced by the fire with shelter, food, clothing and a comfort kit and provided food and drinks to the first responders. The Red Cross will follow up with the affected individual in the coming days.
"We have crews right now that are working in the attic trying to make sure that's out," he said. "You can see the light smoke, that's probably a deep-seated fire in there it will take a little while to get through there."
The property is owned by Columbus Avenue Realty Trust, according to documents on file with the Middle Berkshire Registrar of Deeds.
Columbus Avenue was closed to traffic between Robbins Avenue and Francis Avenue as firefighters deployed equipment.
President of Enviro-Labs Faces Additional Charges
Staff Reports On: 02:33PM / Tuesday April 02, 2013
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — William Enser Jr., the president of Berkshire Enviro-Labs, was back in Superior Court on Tuesday facing new charges.
Enser previously pleaded not guilty to 15 counts of knowingly falsifying reports submitted to the state Department of Environmental Protection and 15 counts of willfully making false reports to MassDEP. He allegedly backdated drinking-water sample analysis to cover up misconduct and feign compliance with environmental laws.
He now faces an additional 14 counts of willfully making false reports to the MassDEP and another 14 counts of knowingly falsifying submitted reports, all of which he pleaded not guilty to in Berkshire Superior Court on Monday. The additional charges brings the total counts up to 58.
According to Attorney General Martha Coakley, Enser, 63, of Lee, continued to work at the lab through February 2013 and failed to submit required sampling that showed bacterial contamination in drinking water samples.
Enser allegedly hid samples that revealed contamination and instead took multiple samples and sent only passing results to the state. Authorities say that in one instance in October 2012, Enser directed an employee to report a drinking water sample which had come from the tap in the Enviro-Labs’ office instead of the public water source.
The lab's certification for testing samples has been revoked by the state.
"These additional charges allege that this defendant failed to submit water sample analysis that showed bacterial contamination to the MassDEP," Coakley said in a press release issued on Tuesday. "He is now prohibited from being involved in the operation of the company and is no longer able to tamper with water testing reports and potentially put people at risk."
After the first arraignment, Enser was prohibited by the court to act as the drinking water system operator, take drinking water samples, conducting water testing or reporting water data. But, he remained active with the company and Judge Daniel Ford ordered receivership of Enviro-Labs. Enser is prohibited from being involved in the company in any way.
"The Environmental Strike Force's continued investigation into the activities of Mr. Enser, who has already been indicted for falsifying drinking water reports, has now revealed evidence of additional fraud," said Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell of MassDEP. "MassDEP is committed to upholding the integrity and the safety of drinking water programs across the Commonwealth."
The investigation began in September 2012. Enser is due back in court in June.
Pittsfield Co-op's Dalton Avenue branch was closed Monday afternoon after it was robbed. Above, the suspect in the robbery captured by cameras leaving the scene.
UPDATE: Tuesday, April 2, 2013: Police have released photos of the suspect.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Pittsfield Police Detective Bureau at 413-448-9705.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Police are searching for a suspect in the robbery of Pittsfield Cooperative Bank's 110 Dalton Ave. branch.
According to Pittsfield Police, the robbery occurred at about 1 p.m. when a man passed a note to a teller. Police say no weapon was shown but they have not revealed the contents of the note.
An undisclosed amount of cash was taken and the suspect left on foot on Dartmouth Street.
Police Chief Michael Wynn said no one was injured in the incident.
"In a very quick period of time, patrol responded, had good information, description information," he told the Police Advisory Board on Monday evening. "K-9 tracked to an adjoinng street where the suspect, they believe, got into a car."
The suspect is described as a white man, in his late 30s to mid-40s, approximately 5-feet-8 and weighing between 200 and 210 pounds. He was wearing a yellow "Pelle Pelle" T-shirt, tan cap and black rectangular-frame glasses.
The Detective Bureau is reviewing video from the bank and adjoining businesses.
If anyone has information, call the Pittsfield Police Detective Bureau at 413-448-9705.
Local Animal Advocate Offers Reward in Adams Cat Case
Staff Reports On: 04:54PM / Thursday February 07, 2013
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Allen Harris, president of Berkshire Money Management, is offering a $5,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the individual or individuals responsible for the recent cruel and sadistic treatment of a cat in the vicinity of Howland Avenue in Adams.
"This is a heinous crime. I recognize that without some additional incentive the perpetrator or perpetrators may not be brought to justice," said Harris in a statement. "I implore anyone who knows something, anything, that may be helpful to law enforcement to do the right thing and report it."
Those with any information about the crime should call Adams Police at 413-743-1212.
Harris said he was shocked and appalled reading the details of the despicable acts. Such cruel behavior should not be tolerated, whether the victim is a cat, dog or any other living creature.
Harris and his wife, Stacey Carver, have been longtime supporters of vulnerable animals in the community. They have dedicated time and resources to several causes including Berkshire Animal DREAMS, New England Basset Hound Rescue, Eleanor Sonsini Animal Shelter and others. Carver is a board member for Animal DREAMS and New England Basset Hound Rescue Inc. and Harris is a member of the city of Pittsfield Animal Control Board.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — One firefighter was taken to the hospital during a blaze at the city's highway department building Monday morning.
According to Deputy Chief Bruce Kilmer, the fire began on the upper floors around 9 a.m.
While attempting to knock down the flames, one firefighter sustained a burn on his neck. He was transported to Berkshire Medical Center for Treatment. No other injuries were reported.
As of 11 a.m., the fire was still burning but was mostly contained.
"The major body of the fire is down. We're just working hard to get in there at this time," Kilmer said of the fire that was smoldering in the attic.
"It's just a hard fire to get at," he said.
The West Housatonic Street building poses safety concerns because of its structural deficiencies. Kilmer said he is worried about the roof in some areas.
"They were concerned about the structural integrity of this brace wall," Kilmer said pointing one of the building's rear corners. "They're being careful."
The double alarm fire led the department to call in 19 off-duty reserves and Lenox and Dalton companies responded with mutual aid, Kilmer said. West Housatonic Street was closed during the fire.
"We backfilled myself and 18 other men to operate the reserve apparatus," Kilmer said. "We have two engine companies, a reserve ladder company and a reserve engine company. Lenox ladder company is in on mutual aid and Dalton engine company is in on mutual aid to cover the rest of the city."
The top floors of the building were used for storage including the city's Christmas decorations and some 600 plastic recycling bins, according to Mayor Daniel Bianchi, who was on the scene most of Monday morning. The bins "burn like tires," he said.
"It had structural issues for years and I think the last chapter has been written," Bianchi said of the building he believes was built in the 1890s.
Kilmer said he does not know what caused the fire but he does not suspect foul play. A fire investigator was also on scene.