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Vehicle Towing Boat Catches Fire Near Pontoosuc Lake

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff

Reader John Friend submitted this photo of the blaze.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Firefighters were able to save a boat after the vehicle towing it caught on fire.
 
Deputy Fire Chief Mark Cancilla said he and six firefighters from two engines responded to Upper North Street, near Pontoosuc Lake between Zucchinis Restaurant and Hancock Road, shortly after 2:30 Wednesday to find a Honda Pilot towing a boat fully involved.
 
Firefighters blocked off the road and ran two hose lines to extinguish the blaze in just 15 minutes — quick enough to save the pontoon boat from further damage.
 
"It was a hot fire. It damaged the pavement," Cancilla said.
 
The occupant had gotten out of the SUV and escaped injury and no firefighters were harmed. Traffic was detoured over Hancock Road for about a half hour while the firefighters worked in temperatures approaching 90 degrees.
 
"It probably wasn't more than 15 minutes to put it out. It was great teamwork, especially in this hot weather," Cancilla said.
 
The front seats on the boat had begun to melt and catch fire when firefighters arrived, but the crew was able to halt any further damage.
 
"We saved the boat," Cancilla said.
 
Cancilla said it appears that the fire started when the trailer hitch broke and jammed into the rear wheel of the Pilot. The spark led to the fire — possibly fueled somewhat by a leak in the transmission line.
 
The Department of Environmental Protection was called in because a storm drain nearby goes into the river. Cancilla said firefighters plugged the drain up in hopes of preventing any contaminants from finding its way in. 
 
The National Highway Traffic Safety Association provides the following tips for towing trailers.
 
General Handling
 
  • Use the driving gear that the manufacturer recommends for towing. 
  • Drive at moderate speeds. This will place less strain on your tow vehicle and trailer. Trailer instability (sway) is more likely to occur as speed increases. 
  • Avoid sudden stops and starts that can cause skidding, sliding, or jackknifing. 
  • Avoid sudden steering maneuvers that might create sway or undue side force on the trailer.
  • Slow down when traveling over bumpy roads, railroad crossings, and ditches. 
  • Make wider turns at curves and corners. Because your trailer's wheels are closer to the inside of a turn than the wheels of your tow vehicle, they are more likely to hit or ride up over curbs. 
  • To control swaying caused by air pressure changes and wind buffeting when larger vehicles pass from either direction, release the accelerator pedal to slow down and keep a firm grip on the steering wheel.
Braking
 
  • Allow considerably more distance for stopping. 
  • If you have an electric trailer brake controller and excessive sway occurs, activate the trailer brake controller by hand. Do not attempt to control trailer sway by applying the tow vehicle brakes; this will generally make the sway worse. 
  • Always anticipate the need to slow down. To reduce speed, shift to a lower gear and press the brakes lightly.
Acceleration and Passing
 
  • When passing a slower vehicle or changing lanes, signal well in advance and make sure you allow extra distance to clear the vehicle before you pull back into the lane. 
  • Pass on level terrain with plenty of clearance. Avoid passing on steep upgrades or downgrades. 
  • If necessary, downshift for improved acceleration or speed maintenance. 
  • When passing on narrow roads, be careful not to go onto a soft shoulder. This could cause your trailer to jackknife or go out of control.
Downgrades and Upgrades
 
  • Downshift to assist with braking on downgrades and to add power for climbing hills. 
  • On long downgrades, apply brakes at intervals to keep speed in check. Never leave brakes on for extended periods of time or they may overheat. 
  • Some tow vehicles have specifically calibrated transmission tow-modes. Be sure to use the tow-mode recommended by the manufacturer.
Backing Up
 
  • Put your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel. To turn left, move your hand left. To turn right, move your hand right. Back up slowly. Because mirrors cannot provide all of the visibility you may need when backing up, have someone outside at the rear of the trailer to guide you, whenever possible. 
  • Use slight movements of the steering wheel to adjust direction. Exaggerated movements will cause greater movement of the trailer. If you have difficulty, pull forward and realign the tow vehicle and trailer and start again.
Parking
 
  • Try to avoid parking on grades. If possible, have someone outside to guide you as you park. Once stopped, but before shifting into Park, have someone place blocks on the downhill side of the trailer wheels. Apply the parking brake, shift into Park, and then remove your foot from the brake pedal. Following this parking sequence is important to make sure your vehicle does not become locked in Park because of extra load on the transmission. For manual transmissions, apply the parking brake and then turn the vehicle off in either first or reverse gear. 
  • When uncoupling a trailer, place blocks at the front and rear of the trailer tires to ensure that the trailer does not roll away when the coupling is released. 
  • An unbalanced load may cause the tongue to suddenly rotate upward; therefore, before un-coupling, place jack stands under the rear of the trailer to prevent injury.
     

Pittsfield Man Arrested in Armed Robbery of K&K Liquors

Staff Reports
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A 25-year-old man was arrested Tuesday afternoon after robbing a liquor store.
 
Sean Matthews, 25, of Pittsfield is accused of armed robbery of K&K Liquors on North Street with a knife at about 10:13 a.m. Police says local and state officers arrived on scene and performed an initial search of the perimeter and shortly after detectives developed Matthews was the suspect. No injuries occurred during the robbery.
 
A short time later, Matthews was arrested and charged with armed robbery and intimidation of a witness. Police are asking any witnesses in the case to contact the detective bureau at 448-9700.
 
"The Pittsfield Police is proud of the manner in which this case was handled from the initial call in the communications center to patrol division response to detective bureau, crime scene unit and narcotics units followup investigations, the case was handled with professionalism and focus."
 
Police wrote in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon.
     

Pittsfield Police Investigating Series Of Shootings

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Sections of Wahconah Street and Peck's Road were shut down for more than an hour Thursday afternoon in response to reports of gunfire.
 
Police arrested 34-year-old Patrick Coyne "after a brief pursuit" and charged him with carrying a firearm without a license, discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a building, and being armed career criminal. He is being held at the Pittsfield Police Department pending arraignment on Friday in Central Berkshire District Court. Police say additional charges may be forthcoming. 
 
There were no injuries in Thursday's incident.
 
"Evidence of the shooting was located on Peck's Road and in a nearby back yard. The scene was processed by members of the Pittsfield Police Crime Scene Service Unit," police wrote in a statement.
 
According to reports on the scanner, police were looking for a man who was shooting a gun in the Wahconah Street area. The man was reportedly walking on Peck's Road. Police soon had Coyne in custody and found a gun in a nearby location, according to scanner reports. 
 
State police, the Berkshire County sheriff's office and Pittsfield Police shut down Wahconah Street from the ball park to Alcove Street and Peck's Roads from the intersection with Wahconah to just past the fire station shortly before 2 p.m. on Thursday. The roads were reopened shortly after 3 p.m.

The Pittsfield School Department delayed the dismissal of walking students from Reid Middle School to avoid interfering with the evidence search at the intersection of Wahconah, Peck's and Pontoosuc Avenue. 

The shooting is just the latest in a seeming uptick in gun activity.
 
On Wednesday just before 9 p.m., police received a report of shots fired in the area of Second Street and Pond Street. There an adult man was found suffering from a single gunshot wound. The injuries were reported as "non-life threatening." 
 
An hour and a half later, there was another report of shots being fired on Dartmouth Street. No injuries were reported but a vehicle was found to have been damaged by a bullet. 
 
On Saturday, a gunman was arrested near Berkshire Medical Center after a shooting on Hull Avenue, which put the hospital on lockdown.
 
Police Chief Michael Wynn said on Thursday that it is too early to tell if the three reports of shots fired on Wednesday night and Thursday morning are related. The BMC incident appears to have been unrelated, the chief said.
 
"Based on the information available to us at this time, the other three incidents all appear to have been targeted, not random. As I stated at the community meeting, any violent crime is concerning, but these incidents are not directed at the public in general. Unfortunately, there is a risk of someone being in the area of one of these incidents and being inadvertently injured," Wynn wrote in an email on Thursday.
 
A little over two weeks ago, a 17-year-old man was shot on Bartlett Avenue, which triggered a community meeting held by the Wards 4 and 5 city councilors. There Wynn said the shootings were among known gang members and he, as well as other officers, asked the public to "see something, say something." He expanded on that Thursday by saying that in addition to reporting suspicious activity, families and peers of individuals heading down a violent path can help police intervene.
 
"I just attended an FBI briefing in which the agent stated that peers and family members are the most likely to see things or hear statements that indicate that an individual is on a trajectory toward violence. The most important thing that the community can do is let us know if they have any indication that someone has the intention or the means to engage in this type of activity. We would prefer to intervene before they carry out a violent act," Wynn said.
 
As for the current cases, Wynn wrote that police are "devoting every available resource to working these cases." 
 
"We have authorized shift commanders to redeploy their resources based on reported activity and to request additional resources to their shifts as they see fit. Our investigative units are also aggressively working these cases," Wynn wrote.
 
Mayor Linda Tyer issued a statement on Facebook regarding the incidents, promising that the city is using "every available resource" to get control of the violence.
 
"This is hard. Really hard. I know how upsetting the ongoing gang and gun violence is to all of you. I'm distressed, too. Please be assured that every available resource is being deployed and a great deal of advance planning is constantly taking place to proactively engage in these very serious circumstances," she wrote. 
 
"I understand that you'd like to have the details about police strategy. Unfortunately, when we release that kind of information to the public it also becomes available to those we pursue. I'm determined to get this under control and I need your help. See something, know something, say something. And I'll say this, too, even before I became mayor I had a great deal of respect for our police department. Since taking office my respect and admiration for their diligence, strategy, and commitment to keeping us safe has grown immensely. Without their persistence our situation would be much worse. Let's be on their side."
     

Pittsfield Police Respond to 3 Rollovers in Less Than 24 Hours

Staff Reports
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — There have been three rollovers in the city in less than 24 hours.
 
Police say the first rollover accident in the vicinity of 77 Second St. "appears to involve two vehicles, one parked and one being operated by a 29-year-old male from Pittsfield."
 
That was reported just before 11 p.m. on Tuesday night. Police said there does not appear to have been any serious injuries, that the accident is still under investigation, and "information is limited at this point."
 
An hour later, a second rollover occurred in the area of West Street and Eleanor Road. 
 
"The operator of this vehicle fled the scene of the accident and was not located. The accident is still under investigation," police wrote in an email. 
 
In both incidents, vehicles were towed from the scene.
 
"The two accidents one hour apart tied up numerous Pittsfield Fire Department and Pittsfield Police Department units for the better part of two hours," police said.
 
On Wednesday morning, first responders again were called for a rollover motor vehicle accident. Police posted on Facebook shortly after 9 a.m. a two-car crash, leaving one vehicle on its roof, at the intersection of Bartlett Avenue and Taconic Street. 
 
"Officers arrived within moments of the call and assisted with several patients until EMS arrived. Thankfully no serious injuries were reported. Remember to stop at all stop signs," police wrote on Facebook.


     

Pittsfield Police Apprehend Shooting Suspect Who Forced BMC Lockdown

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Police apprehended a man suspected in a possible shooting incident around noontime Saturday that led to a brief lockdown of Berkshire Medical Center.

Dylan Ducharme, 20, of Pittsfield is being charged with several criminal counts, including discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling.

According Sgt. John Soules, patrol officers responded to the report of shots fired at about 11:43 a.m. in the Hull Avenue area, about two blocks from BMC.

They were told that the suspect had fled on foot toward Berkshire Medical Center; other witnesses told police he was seen entering the Medical Arts Complex on the hospital campus.

As a result, BMC was briefly placed on lockdown status while officers searched the building. While the lockdown was in progress and the building was being searched, police received additional information that the suspect may be in a vehicle in the area of Second Street. Officers assisted by state police responded to that location, located the suspect and vehicle, initiated a motor vehicle stop and placed Ducharme under arrest without incident.

Ducharme is charged with three counts of assault by means of a dangerous weapon, discharging the firearm, unlawful possession of a firearm, and assault and battery.

Evidence recovered from the scene confirmed a shooting had taken place, according to police. Pittsfield Police were assisted by members of the state police, Berkshire County sheriff's office, and the Berkshire County Special Response Team.

The incident is currently under investigation. Anyone with any additional information is asked to contact the Detective Bureau at 413-448-9705.

     
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