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Pittsfield DPW Building Destroyed By Fire

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — One firefighter was taken to the hospital during a blaze at the city's highway department building Monday morning.

According to Deputy Chief Bruce Kilmer, the fire began on the upper floors around 9 a.m.

While attempting to knock down the flames, one firefighter sustained a burn on his neck. He was transported to Berkshire Medical Center for Treatment. No other injuries were reported.

As of 11 a.m., the fire was still burning but was mostly contained.

"The major body of the fire is down. We're just working hard to get in there at this time," Kilmer said of the fire that was smoldering in the attic.

"It's just a hard fire to get at," he said.

The West Housatonic Street building poses safety concerns because of its structural deficiencies. Kilmer said he is worried about the roof in some areas.
 
"They were concerned about the structural integrity of this brace wall," Kilmer said pointing one of the building's rear corners. "They're being careful."
 
The double alarm fire led the department to call in 19 off-duty reserves and Lenox and Dalton companies responded with mutual aid, Kilmer said. West Housatonic Street was closed during the fire.
 
"We backfilled myself and 18 other men to operate the reserve apparatus," Kilmer said. "We have two engine companies, a reserve ladder company and a reserve engine company. Lenox ladder company is in on mutual aid and Dalton engine company is in on mutual aid to cover the rest of the city."
 
The top floors of the building were used for storage including the city's Christmas decorations and some 600 plastic recycling bins, according to Mayor Daniel Bianchi, who was on the scene most of Monday morning. The bins "burn like tires," he said.
 
"It had structural issues for years and I think the last chapter has been written," Bianchi said of the building he believes was built in the 1890s.
 
Kilmer said he does not know what caused the fire but he does not suspect foul play. A fire investigator was also on scene.
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