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White Terrace Apartment Fire Ruled Accidental

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff

Update: Tuesday, September 12, 2017 at 10:52 p.m.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. - Fire officials say the fire was caused by a battery charging on a bed and then catching the mattress on fire.

Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski said the electronic device set the mattress on fire. Doors were left open, allowing the fire to quickly spread to other units. From there, tenants on the third floor evacuated, leaving doors open and the fire expanded from there.
 
Czerwinski asks residents to remember to close doors to help restrict fire expansion.
 
Czerwinski said the building is "heavily damaged" but is still be assessed. 
 
In total four people were transported to Berkshire Medical Center for treatment from the fire. all of the injuries were minor and no one was admitted. Only one of those were treated for injuries related to the fire while the other three were transported for minor issues not related to the fire.
 


A pet rabbit is among pets rescued from the building. 

Original: Sunday, September 10, 2017 at 9:26 p.m.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — At least two dozen people were forced from their White Terrace homes when their building caught fire. 

 

 
The middle building of the three structures that make up White Terrace Apartments off North Street, two blocks from Berkshire Medical Center, was fully involved with flames and smoke pouring from the third floor. 
 
The reports of a fire came in around 6:42 p.m. and firefighters and equipment from Dalton Hinsdale, Lanesborough and Lenox responded at the scene or to cover the Pittsfield station. 
 
Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski said firefighters found heavy fire coming from the third floor on the front windows and west side of 6 White Terrace. 
 
"This was going pretty good," he said. "When I left my home in west Pittsfield, I had heavy smoke showing on West Housatonic Street."
 
Firefighters attacking the blaze also found a tenant out on the east side fire escape who was rescued and taken to Berkshire Medical Center. 
 
All 25 occupants of the dozen apartments in the building were evacuated. Czerwinski said it wasn't clear if the other two buildings had tenants at this time. 
 
Mayor Linda Tyer, speaking to reporters at the scene shortly after 9 p.m., said she did not have details of the blaze she felt comfortable sharing at that point. She did, however, say the residents evacuated were being attended to.
 
"Our first concerns are the residents who have been displaced ... we've brought them down to the Senior Center so they'll be warm and have a place to feel safe and comfortable while we wait for the Red Cross," the mayor said. "We have 24-25 residents, some of them with young children, some of them with pets so there's a little bit of a process."
 
She was not aware of any serious injuries but there was, she said, "a lot of heartache."
 
The Salvation Army was also a the scene to help families displaced by the fire. People also brought pet carriers and food to help with the animals taken from the building. 
 
North Street was closed to all vehicle traffic from Linden Street to Wahconah Street as firefighters battled the blaze. 
 
Czerwinski said the cause is unknown at this point and it was hard to determine where the fire had started because it was burning on two ends and moved quickly through the building.  
 
"The construction of this building was very difficult to work with because there's a lot of void spaces and that's the same trouble we've run into with previous fires," he said. "There are a number of ways for that fire to communicate from floor to floor."
 
The fire chief recalled several times when the department had responded to fires in the grouping of apartment buildings. One about 25 years had also been pretty significant, he said. 
 
The fire attracted a crowd of at least a couple hundred people in the densely settled area. In the crowd on North Street, a number of people were seen being taken away on stretchers as smoke billowed over North Street.
 
Police Chief Michael Wynn said the bystanders had to be pushed back twice and police tape put up to mark off the street and prevent people from getting too close to where the firefighters were working. 
 
Shift officer Lt. Michael Grady had committed the entire shift to the scene was was calling for more patrols officers, Wynn said. Two came in immediately and some came in early from the midnight shift. 
 
"Any critical incident like this is going to tax our resources and we have to call additional personnel in," he said. "Plus, while the critical incident is occurring, they're still trying to answer calls in the city."
 
At one point, the force was down to three available officers and one of those was pulled to do security at the Froio Senior Center, where apartment evacuees were taken.
 
Built around the turn of the last century, the three buildings have gone through a number of renovations over the years. The latest proposal is a nearly $9 million revamping of all three buildings to create 41 market-rate apartments. 
 
Czerwinski said the department was holding the scene for the state fire marshal and police investigators to determine the cause. The department was also looking into whether the fire alarms were activated; the report apparently came in as a phone call. 
     

Pittsfield Resident Suffers Multiple Gunshot Wounds

Staff Reports
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Police say a 32-year-old resident was shot multiple times early Sunday morning. 
 
According to a statement released Sunday morning, a Shotspotter activation sent police to 101 Fenn St. Officers confirmed a shooting had taken place near the Fenn and First Street parking lot. 
 
The victim, a Pittsfield resident, had been taken to Berkshire Medical Center prior to the officers' arrival.
 
The Pittsfield Police Detective Bureau and Crime Scene Services responded and recovered numerous shell casings and other evidence. The incident remains under investigation.
     

Man Shot And Killed By Pittsfield Police During Domestic Disturbance

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff
The preliminary results of an autopsy on Daniel Gillis indicate was shot seven times and died from multiple gunshot wounds.
 
Associate Medical Examiner Dr. Andrew Sexton conducted the autopsy on the 36-year-old Gillis on Saturday afternoon at Holyoke office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
 

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A Pittsfield Police officer shot and killed a man who allegedly charged officers after first barricading himself in his home.
 
District Attorney David Capeless' office says Daniel Gillis, 36, of 43 Taylor St. was shot by Officer Christopher Colello Friday afternoon. Officers had responded to the address at 12:50 in the afternoon on Friday to a report of an ongoing domestic incident.
 
"The caller indicated that her ex-boyfriend was at the house, causing a disturbance, and when she attempted to intercede, he kicked in the door," Police Chief Michael Wynn said. "Shortly after the initial patrol units responded, they called for additional assistance and declared it as a barricaded subject. The barricaded subject had a knife."
 
Gillis was apparently distraught after being fired from his job and was intoxicated, the district attorney's office alleges. He barricaded himself in the house and armed himself with the knife. The woman, who was described by in the DA's statement as Gillis' girlfriend, threw the knife out of a window but Gillis went and got another one.
 
Shortly after, he exited out a rear door of the home and allegedly charged at officers who were stationed on the side of the property.
 
"He exited the residence and was coming toward the officers," Wynn said.
 
Gillis refused to drop the weapon despite police orders, say law enforcement officials, and a civilian witness and a video from a bystander confirmed that.
 
Gillis was taken to Berkshire Medical Center where he was later pronounced dead.
 
Friday's shooting incident is the second involving Colello. In November 2010, the officer shot Michael Barry after he had doused himself and another person with gasoline and fled into the woods in Dalton. Coello shot Barry when he refused to stop. Barry survived and later pleaded guilty to two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon and vandalism. Numerous other charges were dropped and an internal investigation determined that Colello had not acted improperly.
     

Police Detect 'Large Scale' Credit Fraud Through Gas Pump Skimmers

Staff Reports

Images of a card receiver, left, and one with a skimmer, right, from the Minnesota Department of Commerce.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A "large scale" credit card fraud operation was detected in the city.
 
Police say skimming devices were found inside two local gas pumps, at both Lipton Marts at 580 North St. and 460 South St. Police said it is not known how long the devices had been in place nor how much credit card information was stolen.
 
Police say the number of locations with such devices could increase as authorities worked to inspect gas pumps throughout the city.
 
The devices take credit card information when the cards are scanned and pass it along to third parties. The devices have been removed from both locations, eliminating the risk of further theft. However, residents who have used those pumps are asked to check their records and "be vigilant for signs of fraud."
 
Should residents find signs of fraud, they are asked to contact their bank first and then the Pittsfield Police Department at 413-448-9705.
 
Police say similar devices were found on gas pumps in Great Barrington and if anyone sees fraudulent activity from either of those to contact Police in that town.
 
PC Magazine did an article last year on how to identify a skimmer at an ATM or gas pump. 
 
Area businesses which operate the "Gilbarco Advantage" or the "Gilbarco Encore" pumps are asked to check their equipment as well because it appears those particular pumps were targeted.
 
Lipton Energy is reportedly cooperating with the investigation but cannot assist customers with questions about the investigation. Gas pumps throughout the city will be inspected by the end of Wednesday. 
 
Massachusetts State Police, the Massachusetts Division of Standards, and local authorities are working the investigation.
 
Correction: an earlier version stated that skimmers were found in Lee but Lee Police say that is incorrect.
     

Pittsfield Anti-Crime Unit Arrests Man on Drug, Firearm Charges

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The city's Anti-Crime Unit arrested a Stockbridge man on Monday on drug and firearms charges. 
 
According to police, police officers in plainclothes encountered William Lacy, 26, walking in the area of Center and Bradford streets. The encounter occurred at about 7 p.m. and officers say they developed probable cause for believing he was in possession of narcotics. 
 
Lacey was searched and police said he was found to be in possession of 42 bags of heroin and a crack pipe. After he was placed
under arrest, they conducted a search of the backpack Lacey was wearing. Inside the backpack, officers discovered a 9mm handgun with a loaded magazine inside of it.
 
Lacey was arraigned in Central Berkshire District Court on Tuesday morning on charges possession of a Class A drug (heroin); possession of a Class E drug (suboxone); possessing a firearm without a firearm identification card; and possessing ammunition without an FID.
     
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