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Pittsfield Woman Dies In Apartment Fire

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff
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The fire at 91 Orchard St. Sunday morning was mostly confined to one of three apartments.
UPDATED April 2, 2012 at 1:23 p.m.

Investigators determined that the fire was accidental and caused by improper disposal of smoking materials.

Mayor Daniel Bianchi received a briefing of the incident from Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — An Orchard Street fire that killed a city woman early Sunday morning is being considered an accident.

The body of Claudette Roberts, 59, was discovered by firefighters in her first-floor apartment at 91 Orchard St.

"Right now there are no flags pointing to it as suspicious," said Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski at the scene. "We're looking for an accidental cause. Most of the fire was contained to the apartment of origin."

The three-alarm blaze was reported by a number of 911 calls at about 4:16 a.m. Czerwinski said they were notified that someone was likely still in the apartment and firefighters mounted "an aggressive attack" on the unit.

It was not clear when the fire began but smoke was pouring out onto the porch and flames could be seen in the unit when firefighters arrived.

There was heavy fire damage to Roberts' apartment on the right side of the three-apartment building and to the rear of the second-floor. Czerwinski estimated the damage at about $100,000 but thought the building was salvageable.

Four people living in the other two apartments had to flee the building. The Red Cross was aiding them in finding shelter for the short-term. Roberts lived alone.

A state fire marshal was at the scene and North Adams Fire Director and Wire Inspector Stephen Meranti was inspecting the wiring at the city's request. The investigation is being conducted by the office of the fire marshal, the Pittsfield Fire and Police departments and the state police Crime Scene Services Section.

The Dalton Fire Department also responded to the scene and Lenox and Lanesborough provided backup.

According to the district attorney's office, Roberts' body will be taken to the office of the chief medical examiner in Boston, where an autopsy will be performed, likely on Monday.

There was some damage to the second floor apartment so the residents are displaced.

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