Clarksburg Brush Fire Contained on Third Day
|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.
Two North Adams Men Arrested in Stabbing
|Keith S. Larrabee and Richard K. Perkins III were arrested on assault charges related to the stabbing of a local man on Friday.|
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Police arrested two men Friday afternoon in relation to a stabbing at the corner of Walnut and State streets.
According to police, an emergency call at about 2:42 p.m. reported a man had been stabbed in altercation.
Officers and detectives responded to the scene and located a victim suffering from a stab wound to the abdomen. Two suspects — identified as Keith S. Larrabee and Richard K. Perkins III — had fled the scene.
The victim was transported by North Adams Ambulance Service to Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield.
North Adams police with assistance from state police, were able to locate both Larrabee and Perkins at separate locations within the city. Larrabee and Perkins were both taken into custody without incident.
The knife used in the assault was discarded after the suspects fled from the crime scene. The North Adams Police Department requested a K-9 from the state police to conduct an article search in the area where the knife was suspected to have been thrown. The K-9 was able to locate the knife, which was seized and tagged as evidence.
Larrabee and Perkins have both been charged with single counts assault and battery by means of dangerous weapon, assault and battery and assault to murder.
Larrabee is being held without bail at the Berkshire County House of Correction; Perkins is being held there on $20,040 cash bail. Both will be arraigned in the Northern Berkshire District Court on Monday, April 27.
Police stressed that all of the involved suspects have been apprehended and there is no danger to the public. North Adams police wished to thank all the involved agencies that assisted during the course of this investigation, noting that the suspects had been identified, located and taken into custody in less than two hours.
Police: Street Racing Caused Curran Highway Accident
|A car and pickup involved in the accident sustained severe damage.|
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Police say drag racers on Curran highway caused a three-car accident Thursday night; four people were taken to the hospital.
Sgt. James Burdick said at 10:57 p.m. a North Adams ambulance on its way back from Pittsfield reported two vehicles moving at a high rate of speed northbound on Curran Highway from Adams. He said a minute later, the ambulance called in a three-car accident near Ocean State Job Lot.
Alleged drag racer Hassen Delia, age 26, was driving his girlfriend's 2007 Infinity at a high rate of speed from the Adams line through an intersection on Curran Highway with another unidentified car, said police.
"They went through an obvious intersection at Walmart at a very high rate of speed and one of the drag racers left [the scene]," Burdick said.
Burdick said three "innocents" were involved in the accident and taken to Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield along with Delia.
Nathan Pitoniak, age 22, from Adams and an unidentified passenger were transferred along with Gabriella Schafer, age 18, to Pittsfield.
Burdick said the accident is still under investigation and police have information on the driver who fled the scene. He said Jaws of Life were needed to get all of the occupants out of the vehicles.
"We have some information that we are following up on, and the investigation is still ongoing," Burdick said. "Charges will be brought forward, no question about it."
Burdick did not have any information on any of the injuries, but said there had been no reports of fatalities at this time. He said the roadway was closed for more than seven hours, from 11 Thursday night to 6:30 Friday morning. The North Adams Police Department and North Adams Fire Department both called in a second shift to aid.
North Adams received mutual aid from Adams and Williamstown, he said. Adams Police Department and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts provided officers for traffic detail. The Williamstown Police Department provided the North Adams Police Department with back up while they tended to the accident. The Williamstown Fire Department supplied the North Adams Fire Department with another Jaws of Life for back up.
Burdick said Village Ambulance of Williamstown provided back up for North Adams Ambulance. He said Adams Ambulance also helped.
The state police supplied crime scene services and provided photography and accident reconstruction services, he said.
"You pick the place, we all come together and help each other out," he said. "We always like to give kudos to the other towns."
North Adams Woman, Son Arrested on Drug Charges
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A local woman and her teenage son were arrested on numerous drug and firearms charges on Monday, according to police.
City and state police and members of the Berkshire County Drug Task Force executed a search warrant at a Porter Street address at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, seizing more than 650 bags of heroin and $16,406 in cash. Also found were two handguns, a .38 and a .22 caliber revolver.
Glendalis Rios, 32, and her 16-year-old son were arraigned Tuesday in Northern Berkshire District Court.
Rios was charged with conspiracy to violate the Controlled Substances Act, inducing minor to distribute a drug, and knowingly being present where heroin is kept.
Her son, who attends Drury High, was charged with possession to distribute a Class A drug (heroin), two counts of possessing a firearm without a firearms identification card (one count for each gun), two counts of improperly storing a handgun near a minor, possession of ammunition without an FID card and conspiracy to violate the Controlled Substances Act.
North Adams Man Injured in Rollover
|A local man was injured in a rollover accident on Daniels Road on Friday.|
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A local man was taken by Life Flight to Albany (N.Y.) Medical Center after rolling his Jeep on Daniels Road.
The accident occurred just after noontime on Friday as the report of a rollover at 192 Daniels. The name of the driver has not yet been released. No one else was in the Jeep and there were no other injuries.
Police Director Michael Cozzaglio said preliminary investigations show that the 2009 Jeep was traveling north on Daniels Road at a high rate of speed. After hitting a decorative rock along lawn, it is suspected that the driver was ejected from the vehicle and the Jeep flipped and came to rest upside down.
"Speed was definitely a factor," Cozzaglio said.
He said the driver did not have a seat belt on and sustained serous injuries. He added the Jeep may have been airborne at one point. It sustained significant damage. Debris was scattered on the road, including a pizza box and tools.
The accident is still under investigation. North Adams Ambulance, Fire and Police all responded to the scene. The road was closed until the vehicle could be removed.