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Basement Blaze Forces Evacuation of North Adams Holiday Inn

By Tammy Daniels
iBerkshires Staff
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Holiday Inn had to be evacuated around midnight on Monday after a fire in the boiler room sent smoke through the basement and into the first floor. 
 
The report of smoke in the building was reported shortly before midnight, right after firefighters finished responding to an alarm that went off at 85 Main St. (A number of automatic alarms have been triggered by the annual hydrant flushing over the past week or so.)
 
Fire Director Stephen Meranti said firefighters searched through the basement area and found the fire in a type of plastic trash container in the boiler room. 
 
"There was a lot of smoke in the basement, not much heat, but because we had so many people in the building we made an all-call," he said. Two shifts were dealing with smoke at the hotel while a third shift was covering the station, right across the street. 
 
Firefighters were able to snuff the blaze pretty quickly and were using fans to drive out the smoke. 
 
"The basement had the heaviest smoke, there was some light smoke on the first floor," Meranti said. "The upper floors appear to be OK, the stairwells are closed ... The stairwell doors automatically close so the smoke didn't get up to that point."
 
One guest said he'd come down from the fifth floor and could smell the smoke. It smelled like burning trash or plastic, he said. 
 
Firefighters accessed the basement from an exterior stairwell on the west side, near the Hadley Overpass, and worked their way through the pool area to the boiler room. 
 
"It was on fire when they opened the door. ... there was a lot of smoke coming through," Meranti said, adding a sprinkler head in the boiler room did go off, but not until firefighters were already in the room. 
 
The cause had not yet been determined early Tuesday morning. Meranti said they were focused on clearing the smoke and testing for carbon dioxide before letting guests back into the building. The health and building inspectors were also called to the scene. 
 
However, the area where the fire started was not open to the public, he said. "It was a secured area."
 
It was not clear how many guests were staying in the 90-room hotel but close to three dozen appeared to be outside. The former Sleepy's mattress store was opened for guests to wait but many were standing in the street. It was a mild night with temperatures in the high 50s. 
 
North Adams Ambulance Service had an ambulance at the scene and was overseeing access to the store. American Legion Drive was closed between Main and Summer streets to keep it clear for fire trucks.
 
"It was a quick knockdown, the guys did a good job knocking it down quick and it didn't spread to any other areas," Meranti said. 
     

Adams Man Killed in Head-on Collision Sunday

Staff Reports
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — An Adams man was killed Sunday night when the vehicle he was driving crossed the center line and collided with another car. 
 
The 77-year-old man, whose name is being withheld at this time, was southbound in a 2005 Nissan sedan when he failed to make the wide turn at Hodges Cross Road and veered into the northbound lane of South Church Street, according to Police Lt. Jason Wood. 
 
The Nissan crashed head-on into a 2008 Hyundai sport-utility vehicle headed north on South Church Street near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Skating Rink. 
 
The driver was extricated from his car and taken to Berkshire Medical Center's North Adams campus, said Wood. The passenger in his vehicle and the two occupants of the Hyundai were taken to BMC in Pittsfield with serious injuries, including possible broken bones. 
 
The crash occurred at about 9:01 p.m. and the road was closed in that section until 2 a.m. on Monday. Both vehicles were towed by Dean's Quality Auto.
 
Wood said the state police accident reconstruction team was called to the scene and he was awaiting the report. However, he said there did not appear to be any negligence or any indication that speed, alcohol or drugs were a factor in the crash. Police are leaning toward a medical incident as the cause, he said. 
 
The driver's name is expected to be released later Monday after police ensure that proper notification is complete. 
     

North Adams Fire Damages Central Avenue Duplex

By Tammy Daniels
iBerkshires Staff

A fire in the walls at 54-56 Central Ave. took time to find and extinguish.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Firefighters spent close to two hours tracking down and extinguishing a stubborn fire within the walls of a Central Avenue duplex on Tuesday afternoon.

The blaze started on the backside of the building, between the first and second floors, and sent smoke pouring from windows and eaves of the circa-1900 home. It was called in around 2 p.m.

"It looks like it started in the wall between the two apartments or around the wall between the two apartments," Fire Director Stephen Meranti said. "It got into the ceiling and it went both ways into both apartments."

Firefighters pulled out windows to vent the building and used a chainsaw to cut through the back wall just above the enclosed entryways in the back of 54-56 Central.

"They had quite a bit of smoke and heat on the second floor," Meranti said. "We didn't discover fire until we got into the back wall on the second floor."

The ceiling structure was open between the two halves of the house and the fire made its way above the kitchens.

Acting Fire Lt. Matt Labonte stood in the charred kitchen at 54 Central explained how the fire started on the 56 Central side and burned its way across the ceiling to the other.

"You can see how hot it was in here. We had to do a forced entry," he said. "We got in and we pulled down this tin ceiling right here. That fire was just engulfed in that room. It burned right in that whole ceiling."

There was a fire stop on the exterior wall that prevented the fire from going up through that wall but Labonte thought the tin ceiling was what allowed the blaze to fester and burn through the floor. The joists were gone and a hole opened above the kitchen; on the other side, the wall was burned through to 56 Central.

Meranti said there wasn't a fire stop on the exterior of 56 and the fire made its way up through the wall into the second floor and the attic.

The stairs to the upper floors were in the front of the house and it was difficult for firefighters to navigate their way with hoses up to the second floor. "It wasn't much fire in the attic but it took us a long time to vent the smoke," Meranti said.

The building incurred water, smoke, fire and structural damage. The cause is still under investigation and a fire watch was expected to go through the night to ensure it did not reignite. The property is listed as owned by George Morse III and is managed by Moresi & Associates, which had staff on hand to survey the damage and seal the building.

Only one side of the building was in use and it was believed the occupant was not in the house when the fire was discovered. Rescuers were able to get in to remove pets and the tenant reportedly took one of the dogs to the veterinarian to be checked out.

Central Avenue was blocked off for most of the afternoon. C shift was called in to cover the station and North Adams Ambulance, local and state police, and Clarksburg Fire Department's Rescue 5 responded to the scene.

A Gofundme has been set up to help the tenant, Juli Taylor and her children, who lost most of their belongings in the fire.

     

North Adams Firefighters Save Home From Garage Fire

By Tammy Daniels
iBerkshires Staff
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A chicken incubator is suspected as the cause of a devastating fire that destroyed a two-car garage and threatened a nearby home on Monday evening. 
 
Firefighters were able to save the home at 1664 South Church St. owned by Paul and Diane Lesure but the garage is a total loss.
 
Acting Fire Lt. Matt Labonte said the garage was fully involved upon arrival. "So we made our intentions on cooling down the house," he said. "The house was on fire on the back side so we made our hose lines to the house so nothing got inside." 
 
The Dutch-style garage had a full second story that had caved in within a half hour or so of the first calls at around 6 p.m. No one was home at the time and the owners came home to find the blaze already going. They were able to get their dog out of the house. 
 
"It first came in as a garage fire in back of McCann School. We got a few calls confirming it on the way here," Fire Director Stephen Meranti said, adding that the focus was on limiting fire damage to the single-family home and then containing the garage blaze. 
 
"He had a lot of equipment in there, motorcycles in there, a lot of stuff," he said. "We had guys working in both directions to keep it from spreading."
 
The blaze melted the vinyl siding off the north side and the back of the home and charring could be seen in the rear exterior. The ground was burned around the garage, which was separate from the house and set slightly back on the north side. All that was left of the garage was a pile of twisted metal and debris. 
 
Loud pops could be heard as canisters of fuel or other materials exploded in the conflagration. The house is on the hillside just north of the Adams line but black smoke could be seen billowing from the blaze from the downtown. 
 
Meranti said the cause has yet to be officially determined but he was leaning toward the incubator lamp because there was no other heat source in the building. It contained a woodstove but that hadn't been used in a while. 
 
The Fire Department ran into some trouble with a hydrant located directly in front of the property. Meranti said there was a pressure issue and the Water Department was looking into it. 
 
Firefighters were planning on a fire watch through the night in case the pile or house reignited. The power was shut off and the family was planning to go elsewhere for the night. North Adams Ambulance Service, Wire & Alarm, National Grid, and police also responded to the scene.
 
There was also a problem with spectators stopping on the road to watch the fire. The road is narrow with little room to pull off and the property was on a hill making access difficult. There was a lot of traffic at the time and those parking along the side made it difficult for the fire trucks to get in. Police shut down that section of road from Wheel Estates to the city line and began turning vehicles around. 
 
"There were a lot of spectators here. We would really appreciate it if they would stay clear of the scene," Meranti said. "We had issues getting apparatus in because there were so many people parking to watch on both sides of the road. ... We need people to stay clear just keep on going."
     

North Adams Businesses Warned of Multiple Break-Ins

Staff Reports

This image of the suspect was taken off a security camera Friday morning. 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Police are warning Main Street business owners about a series of break-ins that have occurred over the past few days. 
 
Moulton's Spectacle Shoppe was broken into sometime Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning through the Main Street door with the burglar making off with cash and checks. About 1 a.m. on Friday, an individual broke into the Registry of Motor Vehicles and Berkshire Photography & Printing in the Berkshire Plaza. Nothing was taken from the RMV but clothing was stolen from Berkshire Printing. 
 
The suspect, described as a tall, thin black man, was wearing a parka with a furred-edge hood when captured by security cameras on Friday morning. He is believed to be using a pry bar to open doors and appears to have attempted entry into other locations. 
 
The incidents are still under investigation and anyone with information is asked to contact North Adams Police at 413-662-3105, Ext. 4210. 
 
In the meantime, police are recommending downtown business owners secure all their doors; make sure surveillance systems are active and time/date stamps are correct and active; lock up valuables; alert police and neighboring businesses if you see something out of the ordinary, such as doors being tampered with.
     
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