NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A two-alarm blaze gutted a two-story State Road home on Monday afternoon leaving four people homeless.
A Facebook page has been set up to coordinate help and raise funds for the two couples, who lost everything in the blaze.
According to Fire Director Steve Meranti, firefighters were called to the apartment building at the corner of Protection Avenue and State Street around noon after an off-duty police officer reported heavy smoke and shooting flames.
All off-duty firefighters were called to the scene, where heavy winds spread the fire throughout nooks and crannies on the topmost floors, he said. The fire built up in the ceiling and firefighters needed to call for backup.
Firefighters had to break through the roof of State Road home to battle a blaze that gutted the structure.
"The wind contributed considerably," Meranti said. "It was a tough one. The guys took a wicked beating."
Additional difficulty came because the department was restricted by power lines on Protection Avenue and National Grid had to disconnect power.
Firefighters removed the building's roof to get at the blaze in the attic. The home was vacant when the fire was reported and no one was injured.
"It's a total loss on the second and third [attic] floors," Meranti said. "Everybody has been accounted for."
There are two apartments housing two people in each, according to Meranti. The fire appeared to have begun in a second-floor bedroom, he said.
"I don't remember being at a fire that big since I was a kid," Mayor Richard Alcombright said, who was at the scene.
The fire closed traffic on Route 2 between Protection Avenue and Roberts Drive for more than two hours. Motorists were detoured over Massachusetts Avenue.
Adams Fire Department also assisted on the scene and Clarksburg Fire Department was on standby in the city's station. The cause of the fire is not yet known and investigation will continue on Tuesday when the fire marshall arrives to the scene.
"It does not appear to be suspicious but we haven't ruled anything out yet," Meranti said.
Firefighters remained on the scene Monday night to watch for hotspots.
State police bomb squad examine X-rays of the suspicious bag left under Veterans Memorial Bridge, which is shown in the background.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A bag full of dirty clothes shut down one of the city's main arteries for more than two hours on Wednesday night.
The suspicious bag was reported abandoned under the Veterans Memorial Bridge just after 6 p.m.
An initial investigation led police to believe the bag could contain a bomb or explosives and they closed the roads around 7 p.m. The bomb squad was called about less than a half hour later.
"We had a suspicious package under the artery," said Public Safety Commissioner E. John Morocco, who described it as "an old dufflebag." "We originally checked it with a thermal scanner and we found a hot spot."
That was enough to call in the state police bomb squad, he said. Two squad members arrived around 9 p.m.
Access to Marshall Street between Main and River streets and Veterans Memorial Bridge, carrying Route 2, was blocked and diverted over Main Street and River Street.
Shortly before 10 p.m. state police finished the investigation and found the bag was not harmful. They took X-rays using a portable machine to determine there were no explosives. Once that was completed, a trooper wearing a safety vest opened the bag and looked inside to confirm.
The team brought along the remote-control robot but did not deploy it.
A dufflebag of some type can be seen under the Veterans Memorial Bridge.
"The city should be so fortunate to have such a quick response by police, fire department and ambulance," Mayor Richard Alcombright said when the roads were being reopened. "I want to give a very big thank you to the state police for their help."
The four-lane memorial bridge continues Route 2 over Marshall Street, the Hoosic River and parking lots on both sides of Marshall.
What appeared to be a large, dark bag of some sort could be seen about midway between the concrete pillars supporting the deck on the edge of the east side of the parking lot near the sidewalk at about 9 p.m. The nearby Mohawk Tavern was dark and reportedly evacuated.
North Adams Police were being aided by a state police cruiser and Clarksburg police to prevent motorists from driving under or over the bridge.
Officer Jason Wood said the bag was "full of dirty clothes." An officer is still investigating but Wood wasn't sure it if there was anything in the bag to identify the owner. "It was in an odd spot," he said, adding the bag is now "lost property."
The last time a suspicious package raised this level of caution was more than two years during a failed bank robbery attempt by Robert A. Bywaters. Bywaters claimed to have a bomb in a bag he left on the sidewalk in front of Hoosac Bank on Main Street.
The main drag was shut down for nearly 12 hours before the state police bomb squad removed the bag and disposed of the contents.
Updated and rewritten throughout to add and correct details; Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010, 10:58 p.m.
Update on Saturday, Dec.18: The bag turns out to have been stolen from a woman at the Thrifty Bundle laundromat on State Road. According to a report in the North Adams Transcript, someone grabbed her purse and, when she gave chase, someone else stole her bag.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — An armed robbery at one of the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts' Townhouse dormitories on Tuesday is under investigation.
The district attorney's office released a brief statement late Wednesday saying no one was hurt during the 6:30 p.m. robbery the day before. MCLA campus police and state police detectives assigned to the district attorney's office are requesting that anyone who was in the area at the time or who may have information about the incident contact the college's office of public safety at 413-662-5284.
Fred Lantz, spokesman for the district attorney's office, and Bernadette Lupo, MCLA's spokeswoman, both said they could not provide any additional information because the investigation was ongoing.
A State Road home has foundation damage after a North Adams man crashed into it Friday night.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A Chase Avenue man faces multiple charges after crashing an SUV into a State Road residence Friday, causing damage to the home's foundation.
Chad Slick, 29, is charged with use of a motor vehicle without authority, leaving the scene of an accident, driving with a suspended license and negligent use of a motor vehicle.
According to Police Director Michael Cozzaglio, Slick was upset when he left a New Street apartment and lost control of the vehicle at about 11:15 p.m. The 1995 GMC Jimmy went through a line of bushes and struck the corner of the home owned by Paula and Denis Cote at 404 State Road. Slick left the scene but was arrested in the back yard of the New Street apartment. Alcohol does not appear to be a factor and the only injuries were minor lacerations on Slick's face, Cozzaglio said. The owner of the vehicle was not identified but was connected to Slick, he said.
"We don't believe he was trying to steal the vehicle. He just wanted to leave," Cozzaglio said.
Paula Cote said she and he husband were asleep upstairs when she heard a loud bang, so loud it woke up neighbors on Taft Street, and the house shook.
"I'm still a little shaky," Cote said. "It moved the house. The walls are cracked on the inside."
The house was nearly condemned because of foundation damage but there is just enough support to be livable until it is fixed, she said. The building inspector said the couple will have to move out of the house while the repairs are completed, she said. There are tire tracks in the back yard cutting right though bushes, which have been destroyed and are now discolored.
"It's a hassle. I'm so used to my house, I don't know where to go," she said.
It had been reported that Slick has been in trouble before for charges including disturbing the peace, disorderly conduct and destruction of property.
Wayne Brackett walks the track on Noel Field during Relay for Life in 2010 in this iBerkshires file photo.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Bunny killer Wayne P. Brackett was sentenced to four years in jail Friday morning after pleading guilty to numerous charges in Northern Berkshire District Court.
The 23-year-old North Adams man was caught on video June 9 committing mayhem on pet rabbits housed at Berkshire County Construction on Ashland Street after failing to gain entrance into several vehicles on the property. He admitted to killing five rabbits and breaking and entering.
He pleaded guilty to five counts each of animal cruelty and killing an animal, and single counts of breaking and entering in the nighttime with intent to commit a felony and wanton destruction of property worth more than $250.
Judge Michael Ripps ordered Brackett to serve concurrent two-year sentences in the Berkshire County House of Correction on the cruelty to animal charges and two-year concurrent sentences to be served on and after the first sentence on the breaking and entering and destruction charges.
He also was placed on two years' probation on the charges of killing an animal on the condition he have no contact with the victims, undergo drug and alcohol screening and perform 100 hours of community service work during the probationary period.
The investigation was conducted by members of the North Adams Police Department and the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.