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Barn Destroyed in Early Morning Fire in Adams

Staff Reports

Cows walk in front of the fire on their way to the barn.
ADAMS, Mass. — An early morning fire at Ziemba's farm on Walling Road destroyed a hay-filled barn complex.
 
Firefighters from nearly a dozen fire departments spent hours containing the blaze and preventing it from spreading to adjacent buildings and the farmhouse at Broadlawn Farm.
 
"The back barn was fully involved when we got here and the owners were trying to get the cows out," said Fire Chief John Pansecchi during a pause around 5:30 a.m., nearly three hours after the fire was first reported. "By the time we got here [the barns] were gone."
 
Pansecchi believed all or most of the dairy cattle were saved but the barn was also filled with hay that has continued to smolder and burn. He expected it would take hours to break up the bales and said they were looking for an excavator to tear the ruins apart. The cause is suspected to be electrical but he said it would be some time before it could be investigated. 
 
In addition to the Adams Fire Department and Forest Wardens, tankers and equipment also came from Cheshire, Clarksburg, Dalton, Florida, Lanesborough, Windsor and Savoy, and Stamford, Vt. The Adams Ambulance Service and Northern Berkshire EMS were also on the scene. Trucks and vehicles lined narrow Walling Road by the farm. Readsboro, Vt., sent a tanker to standby in Stamford — the only one immediately available to cover North County.
 
The fire chief wasn't sure if the barn was two or three segments. It was a long structure behind the milking barn with grain storage in another area at one end. 
 
"They've got a grain storage at the other end we're trying to protect," he said. "The immediate concern was the milking house and the grain and this barn that hasn't burned." 
 
Tankers were filling up at water source at the bottom of Walling and East Mountain roads and a hydrant on East Road. Two portable tanks, or pools, were set up in the farm's driveway and tankers backed up to fill them and then left to replenish. That had been going on for hours and was expected to continue for some time. 
 
"We've got probably 2,000 gallons in our trucks and it doesn't take long to go through that," Pansecchi said. Crews were looking for a third water source because using the hydrant had drained the water tank it was connected to by nearly half. "It's tough because you're frustrated for water to get here."
 
As firefighters continued to douse the blaze, the cows made their way to the milking barn, silhouetted against the flames. The farm has about 300 cows and has been in the family for almost a century. 
 
"We're going to be here for a while. We have to break up all the bales of hay ... now it's going to be labor-intensive," Pansecchi said. "These guys did a great job, everybody worked well here." 
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UPDATE: Suspected Pittsfield Arsonist Apprehended

Staff Reports

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.


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Superior Court Briefs: Sept. 17 - Sept. 18

Staff Reports
Cases heard before Judge John Agostini on Monday, September 17.
 
Brian Puntin, 50, of Lenox pleaded guilty to two counts of assault and battery on a disabled person and two counts of caretaker abuse on a disabled person.
 
The case was continued without a finding for six months. Puntin assaulted two students while employed at Eagleton School between September 1, 2015 and December 21, 2015.
 
Juan Lopez-Lucas, 37, of Pittsfield pleaded guilty to single counts of assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon, assault and battery on a disabled person, and caretaker abuse on a disabled person.
 
The case was continued without a finding for one year. Lopez-Lucas assaulted a student while employed at Eagleton School between August 1, 2015 and August 31, 2015. 
 
Two counts of assault and battery on a disabled person and a single count of caretaker abuse on a disabled person were dismissed by the state. Those charges were in connection with another student assault on July 11, 2013.
 
Cases heard before Judge John Agostini on Tuesday, September 18.
 
Naquan Miller, 39, of Pittsfield pleaded guilty to a single count of possession of heroin with intent to distribute in connection with the execution of a search warrant on his home on July 15, 2016. He also pleaded guilty to a single count of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute in connection with a motor vehicle stop in Pittsfield on April 16, 2017.
 
He was ordered to serve two years on the heroin charge and 18 months on the cocaine charge. In total, he will serve three and a half years at the Berkshire County House of Correction.
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Man Arrested After Berkshire Bank Robbery Monday Morning

Staff Reports

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.
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Woman Found Deceased in Car

Staff Reports
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The body of a woman from outside the area was discovered Sunday morning in the parking area of the former Holy Family Church on State Road. 
 
The woman, who was reportedly from the eastern part of the state, was found sitting in a car by a resident of the nearby elderly housing complex. She appeared to have been there for some time.
 
Local authorities say the death is not considered suspicious. The woman's car, a late model Subaru, was towed from the scene. 
 
The woman's name and age have not been released and it is not clear what she was doing in North Adams. 
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Recent Entries:
Barn Destroyed in Early Morning Fire in Adams
UPDATE: Suspected Pittsfield Arsonist Apprehended
Superior Court Briefs: Sept. 17 - Sept. 18
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