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Two-Car Accident at Clarksburg Intersection

Staff Reports

CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Four people escaped serious injury Thursday after another accident at the dangerous intersection at Route 8 (River Road) and Henderson Road.

The crash occurred shortly after 11 a.m. when a northbound late model Ford sport utility vehicle collided with a red Chevrolet pickup truck exiting from Henderson Road.

There were three people in the Ford, the driver, another adult and a child; the pickup contained only the driver. No one was injured.

According to Police Chief Michael Williams, the driver of the pickup had stopped at the stop sign and had checked for traffic before crossing Route 8 toward Middle Road.

The Ford was unable to stop in time and clipped the rear of th3 pickup on the driver's side. Williams said there was no indication that speed was a factor in the crash, but rather the configuration of the intersection, which has seen a number of accidents.
Drivers exiting from Henderson Road have a difficult time seeing northbound traffic because of the highway's higher grade to the south and a banking that obstructs the view. Motorists heading north often can't see any traffic until they begin the descent a few hundred feet from the intersection.

The town has complained to the state Department of Transportation a number of times about the intersection, which has had at least one fatal in recent years.

Williams said it appeared the driver of the Ford, from Lanesborough, was unfamiliar with the roadway and was doing at or about the 45 mph speed limit as she approached the intersection. She apparently hit her brakes, because he estimated the impact at about 20 mph.

No one was cited in the accident.

The Ford sustained damage to its front end and the driver's side front fender; it was towed from the scene by Cariddi Auto;  the pickup, which sustained damage to the rear of its bed, was able to drive away.

Traffic was slowed but not detoured; Clarksburg Fire Department and North Adams Ambulance responded, state police assisted with traffic.


Clarksburg Brush Fire Contained on Third Day

By Tammy Daniels
iBerkshires Staff
The fire burns up The Dome on Friday in this image taken by Fire Director Stephen Meranti.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — More than 50 firefighters from around the region spent a third tough day finally containing a blaze that has burned an estimated 300 acres in the Clarksburg State Forest.

The brush fire had torched 189 acres on Thursday but crews had left the forest in the late afternoon believing it was contained and nearly out.

Clarksburg Fire Chief Kyle "Chip" Chesbro, who had coordinated efforts on Thursday, said the Department of Conservation and Recreation had planned on going in on Friday morning and ensuring it was extinguished.

"This morning at 6 o'clock I get another call that it has grown, that we needed to get people started up there," the soot-covered chief said on Friday after spending the day in the woods.

The fire had rekindled by early Thursday evening; numerous photos on Facebook showed a ring of smoldering orange high on the ridgeline.

Firefighters had to make their way up through rough terrain, including through Pine Cobble on the west end, to about a 2,000 foot elevation.

The hardest part has been accessibility, Chesbro said.

"If you can drive a fire truck in, a class a fire truck, you can put a lot of water out here. These brush trucks have water but the terrain up there is so bad, accessibility is just horrendous," he said. "When you get to the scene, working the scene, there's all brambles, and trees down and the incline and stuff like that you're trying to work on and the footing ... It's just not a good situation."

Indian Pump water packs were brought in by all-terrain vehicles and crews used shovels, chainsaws and leafblowers to clear the dry underbrush for digging breaks.

The fire began early Wednesday afternoon when a cook fire at the Sherman Brook primitive camping area went out of control. The campsite is nearly 2 miles in on the Appalachian Trail from Massachusetts Avenue.

The forest is in the far western end of Clarksburg, bounded by North Adams, Williamstown and Pownal. It's separated from Clarksburg State Park (Mauserts) by about 3 miles.

The blaze extended in a ring around the camping area and, on Thursday evening, "slopped over" the fire break that had been made to contain it. The secondary fire pushed westward up toward the top of The Dome, just north of Pine Cobble.

"They set it up with the left flank and a right flank with The Dome in the middle ... the heaviest fire was really on the right flank toward Clarksburg," North Adams Fire Director Stephen Meranti said. "They did a really good job of knocking it down.  

"Again, it was really difficult to get to ... the access today was a little easier because they could get ATVs closer to the fire."

Meranti could only recall a fire of this size back in the 1970s, not far from the state forest.

Fire crews were planning on going in again on Saturday morning to check for hotspots and DCR will have people on site to monitor the area for the next few days.

No one was injured, though there some scrapes, bruises and blisters, and no homes or private property were ever in any danger.

On Thursday, a National Guard Black Hawk helicopter spent hours ferrying 500 gallons of water at a time from Mount Williams Reservoir to dump on the fire's perimeter.

A state police helicopter aided in aerial observations on Friday and several local pilots took Meranti to survey operations over the past few days.

The mobile command center was set up on Pattison Road to allow for clearer communications and staging was at the Blackinton Mill on Ashton Avenue.

DCR's Chief Fire Warden David Celino was at the command center along with other state and local fire officials.

About a dozen departments have been working the blaze, including Williamstown and Adams departments and forest wardens, Clarksburg, Dalton, Florida, Hinsdale, Lanesborough, New Ashford, Richmond, Windsor, and Pownal and Stamford, Vt., DCR forest wardens and the state forest fire control.

North Adams Fire Department provided backup coverage; other services were provided by the Berkshire County Fire Chiefs, North Adams Ambulance Service, Pittsfield Fire Department, National Guard, Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency and the Northern Berkshire Emergency Planning Committee.

Meranti said the community has been very supportive, with people dropping off food and water.

"One guy stopped by and dropped off pizza," he said. "I don't even know who it was."

Both he and Chesbro stressed their appreciation of the volunteers and others who had put so much effort in over the past few days.

"The town of Clarksburg and the Clarksburg Fire Company would really want to thank all the departments who are working here, all the organizations, DCR , MEMA, everyobody involved," Chesbro said. "It's a lot, a lot of work.

"These guys are taking time out of their day, we really appreciated it."

Update 1:40 p.m., May 1, 2015

Fire crews are in the woods for the third day battling an extensive brush fire in the 3,000-acre Clarksburg State Forest.

At this time, the slow-moving fire has expanded but is not considered dangerous to homes in the area.

The fire had been considered contained on Thursday night but apparently fueled back late yesterday.

Update 8:45 p.m., April 30, 2015

North Adams Police reports the brush fire is contained but still smoking on the mountain.

Fire crews spent much of the day tamping hotspots taking measure to contain the outbreak that reportedly burned about 180 acres. 

The fire began in the Sherman Brook area from a cooking fire and spread outward in a circular pattern.

Update: 11:33 a.m., April 30, 2015

Some 40 firefighters are in the Clarksburg State Forest battling a brush fire that began Wednesday afternoon. About 60 firefighters were on the scene on Thursday, with staging continuing at Ashley Swift & Sons on Massachusetts Avenue.

A National Guard helicopter has been scooping 500 gallons of water at a time from Mount Williams Reservoir and carrying over the fire deep within the mountainous state forest.

Clarksburg Fire Chief Kyle "Chip" Chesbro said the fire is 4,000 feet into the woods.

"It took our guys this morning an hour to hike into it," he said.

Fire crews are using Indian Pumps, a backpack form of water suppression equipment, and portable water tanks to draw from. They are also using shovels and chainsaws to create a break.

"We went from huge head fire front to a controllable front overnight," Chesbro said, adding the humidity, temperatures and morning dew had helped in containing the blaze.

The helicopter out of Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield was dropping about 2 tons of water each time it flew over, he said. It was expected to stay for about an hour before it had to head back to Westfield.

Agencies participating are Williamstown, Clarksburg, Stamford, Florida, Windsor, Dalton, Adams, Lanesborough, Pownal, North Adams and Forest Wardens, Department of State Fire Control, Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, Berkshire County Fire and North Adams Ambulance.


Update 9 a.m., April 30, 2015: Twelve agencies are now working to extinguish the fire in the Clarksburg State Forest, according to a post by the Northern Berkshire Regional Emergency Planning Committee.

"All together, we have approximately 60 firefighters and command staff on scene consisting of Williamstown, Clarksburg, Stamford, Florida, Windsor, Dalton, Adams, Lanesboro, Pownal, North Adams Firefighters and Forest Wardens. Department of State Fire Control, Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, Berkshire County Fire and North Adams Ambulance."

The fire had "settled" somewhat during the night because higher humidity and lower temperatures. "This is a contributing factor to why the decision is made to remove crews and not risk there safety during the night hours," according to REPC's Amalio Jusino.

Firefighters were using aerial observations to locate and evaluate the blaze.

Update at 9 p.m., April 29, 2015 (original post at 7:39 p.m.)

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A nearly 40-acre brush fire was burning beyond a ridge line in the Clarksburg State Forest on Wednesday night.

The glow could be seen from the south side of Route 2 in the city and smoke hung in the air.

Fire crews had been working the blaze since late in the afternoon but had to pull back as the light dimmed.

"Everybody is out of the woods as far as the fire departments," said James Howe of the Clarksburg Fire Department, the incident commander for the fire. "We're out for the night. We'll be meeting back here with other departments to go back in in the morning."

The fire was first reported before 2 p.m. by a hiker somewhere along the Appalachian Trail in the forest off Massachusetts Avenue. Initial reports described it as a cooking fire gone out of control. There was a burning smell throughout the downtown area.

Airport manager Bill Greenwall flew the fire director over the fire so they could get a better understanding of where it was.

"The hiker that reported it had hiked north to stay away from it so he was farther up the trail," Howe said. "He was found complaining about dehydration ... he was taken out through Williamstown, from the Pine Cobble Trail."

According to scanner reports, the rattled hiker was trying to come down from Pine Cobble but was told to head back that way to be taken out. About 4:30, he was described as being about a half-mile from Pine Cobble.

Firefighters from Clarksburg and Stamford, Vt., were in the woods earlier in the afternoon with firefighting gear and chainsaws; other units were being positioned. Clarksburg firefighters were taking the lead because the state forest is within Clarksburg.

Adams Forest Wardens, Williamstown Fire Department and Forest Wardens, North Adams Fire Department and forest wardens with the state Department of Conservation and Recreation were also mobilized. North Adams Ambulance was also at a staging area at Ashley Swift on Massachusetts Avenue. The North Adams Mobile Command was being used in tandem with the communications center at the ambulance station.

Howe had said earlier in the afternoon they were being careful about going into the forest and retrieving the hiker.

"We want to make sure we do things safely and that we do things right," he said about 6 p.m..

"We have firefighters searching for the fire right now ... We have crews from everyone I told you here."

The smoke could be seen billowing over the mountain ridge from Route 2, and appeared to be coming from a hollow. Reports put it near the Sherman Brook Campsite area, between one and two miles from the main road.

The fire was thought to cover about 40 acres in the 3,000-acre state forest. Almost 5 miles of the Appalachian Trail cuts through the forest on its way to Vermont.


North Berkshire Men Injured in Vermont Rollover

Staff Reports

POWNAL, Vt. — A Williamstown, Mass., man may face charges of driving under the influence after a rollover accident early Sunday morning injured himself and a passenger.

Allen Whitney, 23, was operating a 2006 GMC Sierra on Route 346 in North Pownal, near the New York State line, at about 3:27 a.m. when the vehicle left the roadway and rolled over multiple times.

According to the report by State Trooper Justin Walker, "The truck was nearly unrecognizable as it had rolled approximately 500 feet after leaving the roadway."

Whitney was able to exit the pickup truck but his passenger, Brady Kuzia, 25, of Clarksburg, Mass., had to be extricated from the vehicle. Both men were transported to Southwest Vermont Medical Center in Bennington.

Walker said Whitney told him that they were driving home from Hoosick Falls, N.Y., at the time of the crash. The conditions were cold and clear and the road was wet.

Whitney, who was not wearing a seat belt, suffered multiple lacerations to his body, face and head. Kuzia, who was wearing a seat belt, also had multiple lacerations an a possible fractured leg.

During the investigation, Walker suspected that Whitney was under the influence of alcohol and he was processed for suspicion of driving under the influence. Blood results are pending as well as other charges in this case. Investigation is ongoing, but the police report stated "speed was also clearly a factor in this crash."


Superior Court: Man Arraigned in North Adams Murder

Staff Reports
David Delratez at his rendition hearing in Bennington, Vt. He was arraigned in Berkshire Superior Court in Pittsfield on Wednesday for the murder of Ellen Depaoli.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The man accused of murdering 84-year-old Ellen Depaoli in North Adams is being held without bail after his case was moved to Berkshire Superior Court.

David Delratez entered not-guilty pleas on single counts of murder and larceny of a motor vehicle on Wednesday.

Delratez is accused of murdering Depaoli at her home on Walker Street in North Adams on September 17, 2013 and fleeing in her car.

He was taken into custody a few days later in Bennington for violating his probation from a previous charge.

Authorities then charged him with murder and larceny of a motor vehicle and he entered not guilty pleas to those charges at an arraignment in Northern Berkshire District Court on Sept. 23.

The case is now moved to Berkshire Superior Court after a grand jury indicted him on Monday; he was arraigned again on Wednesday.

He again pleaded not guilty to the previous charges of breaking and entering with intent to commit a misdemeanor and malicious destruction of property in connection with an incident in Clarksburg on Sept. 13, 2013 — the charges he was originally taken into custody on because it violated his probation.

Also from that Sept. 13 incident, he was charged and pleaded not guilty to a single count of use of a motor vehicle without authority.

According to police documents presented at the first arraignment, Delratez was found after police tracked down Depaoli's car in Bennington. They found a knife in the car, which police say was used in the murder.

Delratez then allegedly told police that two other men committed the crime and forced him to take the car and drive them out of town. He then says he was scared and went to stay with a friend in Bennington, according to police documents.


Police Investigating Shooting in Clarksburg

Staff Reports

CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Police are investigating an alleged shooting Friday night that sent one person to the hospital.

Law enforcement officials are tight-lipped about the incident although it reportedly occured during an altercation in the town.

Police Chief Michael Williams referred all inquiries to the district attorney's office; Fred Lantz, spokesman for the DA's office, said the incident is currently under investigation.

Lantz did say the incident led one person to be transported and later released from the hospital. No arrests have been made yet, and the investigation is ongoing.

The investigation has included Clarksburg, North Adams and state police.

North Adams Police Director Michael Cozzaglio on Monday said a fight between two women at the Artery Lounge early Saturday morning involved city police in the incident.

"In the course of their investigation, it was brought to the officers' attention that there was a person inside the bar who had a gunshot wound," said Cozzaglio. The officers contacted North Adams Ambulance, which transported the individual to the hospital. "We assisted Clarksburg until the state police detective unit arrived on scene."

According to the North Adams police log, officers were called to the Artery on Union Street at about 1 a.m. for a report of a fight in progress between two women, neither of whom had any relation to the earlier incident in Clarksburg. At 5:36 a.m., the log reports that a North Adams officer also found two .22-caliber casings on Cross Road.

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