PITTSFIELD, Mass. — An elderly couple died in an early morning fire on Bryan Street Thursday.
Shortly before 4 a.m., an electrical cord short-circuited and set the home at 71 Bryan St. on fire. The three occupants — the couple and their daughter — woke up to heavy smoke on the first floor. The daughter, described as being in her early 30s, escaped the blaze and ran to a neighbors house to call for help.
"She woke up to smoke. She came down the stairs, saw her father, her father told her to get out of the house. She launched herself out of a window, just a short window off of the back deck, she landed on the deck. Our guys got in, they were talking to him, and when they pulled him out he was still breathing," Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski said.
Firefighters arrived at about 3:55 a.m. and immediately launched an interior search for the couple. The man was pulled out of the building and transported to Berkshire Medical Center, where he later died because of injuries suffered during the fire. Firefighters went back in and got the woman, but she had already died.
"We knew we were going into a bad situation, to begin with," Czerwinski said, adding that dispatch had alerted the crews to the entrapment immediately. "On arrival, we had heavy fire showing. The deputy was notified that two people were still inside the residence. That was our first plan of action, to get those people out of there."
"Entry crews made their way into the building with thermal imaging cameras looking for the two victims. They located the male victim and brought him out of the building. He was transported to Berkshire Medical Center, where he later succumbed to his injuries. They went back in and found the female victim, brought her out, and unfortunately she was passed away."
There are also a number of pets still unaccounted for. Czerwinski said pathways to the exits were clear but the couple, in their 70s, did have handicapped plates and there was a walker found at the scene — though he isn't sure if the walker was for the man or the woman — which could have hindered an escape.
The younger woman was treated and released from Berkshire Medical Center and one firefighter strained his back while pulling the victims from the structure.
"First responders, we take this to heart. We take it personally that we can't get in there and get these people out," Czerwinski said.
A critical incident stress debriefing team is en route to help the firefighters in the wake of the tragedy. The firefighters had delayed water to the structure in order to perform the rescues.
Czerwinski said his department, the state fire marshal and police are all confident that the cause of the fire was the electrical cord. He said it was powering an air conditioner and was plugged into a power strip, which in turn was plugged into an old outlet.
"We believe the cause of the fire to be an electric cord on the first floor, which short-circuited and caught the building on fire. We are unsure if there were working smoke detectors inside the building. We do know there was one working in the basement but we did not hear any on the upper floors," Czerwinski said.
"It was an accumulation of challenges we had — no working smoke detectors, extension cords, electrical fires — and we, unfortunately, lost a couple of lives."
The building was "totally destroyed" and the chief expects that it would eventually be razed.
Czerwinski stressed the importance of fire prevention, reminding residents to replace fire detectors and avoid potential hazards.
"This may not have been averted but it was certainly an opportunity for this challenge not to present itself," Czerwinski said.
The names of the victims are not currently being released. According to land records, the home is owned by Raymond and Beverly Kinsella.
The last fatal fire in the city was in December 2016, when the same fire crew pulled 72-year-old Herdy Iroth from an apartment above Tahiti Takeout. Iroth later died because of injuries suffered during the blaze.
Pittsfield Firefighters Quickly Knock Out North Street Fire
The multi-family building is at the corner of North and Edgewood.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Pittsfield firefighters were able to quickly knock down a fire that started in the back of 823 North St. on Wednesday morning.
Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski said crews got the call at 9:11 that heavy smoke was showing at the back of the multi-family house on the corner of Edgewood Road, just north of Berkshire Medical Center. North Street near the hospital was closed temporarily as a result.
"Crews made an aggressive interior attack," said Czerwinski, who said firefighters found "a heavy amount of fire" in the back corner of the first floor but were quickly able to knock it down.
Not knowing if anyone was inside the building, crews then searched but found no one and were told everyone was out. No firefighters were injured, and the cause is not yet known.
Czerwinski said that while the fire was knocked down quickly, efforts were hampered by what he characterized as a possible "hoarding" situation inside the back apartment.
"There seems to be a lot of stuff in there," he said from the scene after the fire was out.
The building inspector will make a determination on the condition of the building, Czerwinski said, but he said the rest of the house appeared to be intact, with just the one apartment having been destroyed.
"It looks like they got in there quick enough and got it knocked down," he said.
Most of the Pittsfield fire crews were on the scene, but there were enough available to leave some to cover the stations, he said.
"The guys did a great job," he said.
UPDATE: Suspected Pittsfield Arsonist Apprehended
Update: Monday, September 24, 2018, at 5:05 p.m.
Phillip Jordan was arraigned in Vermont on Monday afternoon on a fugitive from justice charge and is being held on $25,000 bail. A not-guilty plea was entered on his behalf and his case was continued pending an examination to determine his competency to participate in court proceedings regarding his fugitive status.
Jordan is facing three counts of burning a dwelling house in connection with fires at homes on Appleton Avenue, Ridge Avenue and Fort Hill Avenue in Pittsfield on Saturday. The investigation is continuing and more charges may be pending.
Update: Sunday, September 23, 2018 at 5:07 p.m.
Pittsfield Police say Phillip Jordan was apprehended at the Canadian border by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents at the Highgate Port of Entry in Highgate Springs, Vt. without incident. The district attorney's office is assisting in the extradition back to Massachusetts.
Police are seeking any information on the whereabouts of Phillip Jordan. Jordan is considered armed and dangerous.
Original Post: Saturday, September 22, 2018.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Authorities say incendiary devices were used Saturday night to start fires in four separate locations in the city all at about the same time.
"We had four fires simultaneously in the community," said Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski at the scene of the worst of the incidents on Appleton Avenue.
"We believe they are all related at this time. The Police Department is searching for a suspect right now that we believe is responsible for this."
Police released a Code Red notification shortly after 9 p.m. seeking information on the whereabouts of 58-year-old Phillip Jordan.
He is believed to have intentionally lit the fires. Jordan was operating a blue Subaru Legacy with license plate number 7LJA90.
Jordan is described as a white man with long salt and pepper hair, standing 5-feet 7-inches tall, and weighing 135 pounds.
He is considered armed and dangerous and police say he should not be approached.
Police are asking anyone with information about his whereabouts to contact the department.
A Phillip Jordan is also listed in the Registry of Deeds as the owner of 112 Appleton Ave., where the first of the fires was reported at 6:42 p.m. That fire was still going strong more than two hours later. A second fire was reported at Fort Hill Avenue, a third at Ridge Avenue and then a fourth on Brown Street.
"This is the worst of them," the fire chief said as crews continued to fight the blaze in the two-story home on Appleton. "They're heavily involved in defensive operations ... it was in the basement and went through the entire building."
No one was home at the Appleton residence but the occupants of the other three homes were able to put out the fires before firefighters arrived.
"They were all single-family homes," Czerwinski said. "It appears to be some kind of incendiary device at all four houses."
Firefighters and equipment from Richmond, Lanesborough, Lenox and Dalton were called in to help respond the blazes and cover the station. Fire investigators with the department were already working at the three smaller fires and arson investigators were on their way.
Meanwhile, throughout the evening police had officers scouring the area looking for Jordan.
Firefighters extinguished the Appleton blaze and were packing up to leave the scene at about 10:30 p.m. That was when fire investigators began working the scene.
Man Arrested After Berkshire Bank Robbery Monday Morning
A sign on the door alerted customers that the branch is closed for the day.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Pittsfield Police were able to apprehend the suspected robber of a Berkshire Bank branch within hours of the crime Monday morning.
At about 10:50 in the morning, officers responded to a reported robbery of Berkshire Bank branch on Elm Street.
Two hours later, police arrested 37-year-old Christopher Rock in connection with the crime.
Police say the suspect showed a note to a teller demanding money "in certain denominations" and then fled on foot with an undetermined amount of cash.
The suspect was identified on surveillance video and witness accounts. Sgt. James Parise and his K9 were able to track down "additional evidence."
Police obtained a Seymour Street address where the suspect could be found and he was arrested without incident. Rock's last known address was in Lee.
Rock is being charged with unarmed robbery and possession of heroin. He will be arranged in Central Berkshire District Court on Tuesday morning.
The branch is closed for the rest of the day but is expected to re-open on Tuesday.
It is the second financial institution robbed within the last week. Police are still investigating a robbery of the Greylock Federal Credit Union, also on Elm Street, last Wednesday.
Pittsfield School Bus Involved in Minor Traffic Accident
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A Westfield man was cited Wednesday for a rear-end collision that involved a Pittsfield Public Schools bus on East Street.
The accident occurred at approximately 3:37 p.m. when a 2012 Honda Civic operated by Anthony Disanto of Westfield rear-ended a 2009 Nissan Versa, operated by Daniel Hammer of Pittsfield, which then struck the bus.
The school bus was stopped in traffic on East Street near the intersection with First Street. The school bus was transporting approximately 19 elementary school-aged children. The collision caused Hammer's vehicle to be pushed into the rear end of the stopped school bus.
The school bus was not dropping children off at the time of the collision. The bus driver was waiting for the signal light at East and First to change. No injuries were reported.
Traffic Officer Michael Silver investigated the accident. Disanto was cited for failure to use care in stopping.
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