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Basement Blaze Forces Evacuation of North Adams Holiday Inn

By Tammy Daniels
iBerkshires Staff
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Holiday Inn had to be evacuated around midnight on Monday after a fire in the boiler room sent smoke through the basement and into the first floor. 
 
The report of smoke in the building was reported shortly before midnight, right after firefighters finished responding to an alarm that went off at 85 Main St. (A number of automatic alarms have been triggered by the annual hydrant flushing over the past week or so.)
 
Fire Director Stephen Meranti said firefighters searched through the basement area and found the fire in a type of plastic trash container in the boiler room. 
 
"There was a lot of smoke in the basement, not much heat, but because we had so many people in the building we made an all-call," he said. Two shifts were dealing with smoke at the hotel while a third shift was covering the station, right across the street. 
 
Firefighters were able to snuff the blaze pretty quickly and were using fans to drive out the smoke. 
 
"The basement had the heaviest smoke, there was some light smoke on the first floor," Meranti said. "The upper floors appear to be OK, the stairwells are closed ... The stairwell doors automatically close so the smoke didn't get up to that point."
 
One guest said he'd come down from the fifth floor and could smell the smoke. It smelled like burning trash or plastic, he said. 
 
Firefighters accessed the basement from an exterior stairwell on the west side, near the Hadley Overpass, and worked their way through the pool area to the boiler room. 
 
"It was on fire when they opened the door. ... there was a lot of smoke coming through," Meranti said, adding a sprinkler head in the boiler room did go off, but not until firefighters were already in the room. 
 
The cause had not yet been determined early Tuesday morning. Meranti said they were focused on clearing the smoke and testing for carbon dioxide before letting guests back into the building. The health and building inspectors were also called to the scene. 
 
However, the area where the fire started was not open to the public, he said. "It was a secured area."
 
It was not clear how many guests were staying in the 90-room hotel but close to three dozen appeared to be outside. The former Sleepy's mattress store was opened for guests to wait but many were standing in the street. It was a mild night with temperatures in the high 50s. 
 
North Adams Ambulance Service had an ambulance at the scene and was overseeing access to the store. American Legion Drive was closed between Main and Summer streets to keep it clear for fire trucks.
 
"It was a quick knockdown, the guys did a good job knocking it down quick and it didn't spread to any other areas," Meranti said. 
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Adams Man Killed in Head-on Collision Sunday

Staff Reports
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — An Adams man was killed Sunday night when the vehicle he was driving crossed the center line and collided with another car. 
 
The 77-year-old man, whose name is being withheld at this time, was southbound in a 2005 Nissan sedan when he failed to make the wide turn at Hodges Cross Road and veered into the northbound lane of South Church Street, according to Police Lt. Jason Wood. 
 
The Nissan crashed head-on into a 2008 Hyundai sport-utility vehicle headed north on South Church Street near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Skating Rink. 
 
The driver was extricated from his car and taken to Berkshire Medical Center's North Adams campus, said Wood. The passenger in his vehicle and the two occupants of the Hyundai were taken to BMC in Pittsfield with serious injuries, including possible broken bones. 
 
The crash occurred at about 9:01 p.m. and the road was closed in that section until 2 a.m. on Monday. Both vehicles were towed by Dean's Quality Auto.
 
Wood said the state police accident reconstruction team was called to the scene and he was awaiting the report. However, he said there did not appear to be any negligence or any indication that speed, alcohol or drugs were a factor in the crash. Police are leaning toward a medical incident as the cause, he said. 
 
The driver's name is expected to be released later Monday after police ensure that proper notification is complete. 
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Superior Court Briefs: May 9.

Staff Reports
Cases heard before Judge Maureen Hogan on Wednesday, May 9.
 
Lawrence Murray, 34, of Pittsfield pleaded guilty to two counts of failure to file a report of child abuse as a mandated reporter and a single count of misleading a police officer or other person.
 
The case was continued without a finding for one year. The incidents occurred while Murray was employed by Eagleton School between November 1, 2015 and December 31, 2015. 
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Fire In Four-Family Pittsfield Building Displaces 15 Residents

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff

Firefighters were able to knock down the fire after about an hour.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Fifteen people are displaced after a large fire destroyed a four-family Brown Street home.
 
Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski said at 7:32 p.m. the department received a call of a working fire in the two and a half story, wood frame building at 48-50 Brown Street. 
 
"They had a fire on the second floor in the back of the building which looks like it auto-extended into the attic area. Our guys could not find an access to the attic. The fire got a good hold inside the attic and was running from end to end. We had to finally wait for the fire to break through the roof itself in order for us to go defensive operations," Czerwinski said.
 
The chief didn't know how many people were home at the time but said all of them had been accounted. A total of 15 people lived in the building and the American Red Cross was on scene to assist them. Czerwinski said there were no injuries.
 
Shortly after the firefighters arrived, the flames broke through the roof and towered high into the air. Heavy smoke filled the neighborhood and brought nearly 100 onlookers to the scene. Police were called to the scene to help manage the large number of pedestrians crowding the sidewalks.
 
Firefighters surrounded and soaked the fire.
 
"The deputy on arrival made this a double alarm fire almost immediately. We've got all the city firefighters that are on duty here. We've got extra companies that have been called in. We also have mutual aid standing by at Pittsfield headquarters," Czerwinski said.
 
Close to 30 firefighters were called to the scene and others stood by waiting to respond if needed. The first responders also faced some trouble when the nearest hydrant wasn't working. Firefighters had to run lines from Tyler Street to the scene instead. 
 
Czerwinski said the size of the building helped strengthen the fire. At an estimated 40-feet by 75-feet, Czerwinski said, "once it got into that attic, it just ran from end to end."
 
Within an hour, about 3/4 of the roof had collapsed. But that posed its own challenges because, "unfortunately that same roof that is designed to keep the water, snow, and elements out, as it fell into the building also kept our water from getting in," Czerwinski said.
 
Around 8:30 the fire was mostly knocked down but firefighters still struggled to get lines on all of the hot spots. Another crew mounted an interior attack, attempting to get into the attic and further knock it down.


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North Adams Fire Damages Central Avenue Duplex

By Tammy Daniels
iBerkshires Staff

A fire in the walls at 54-56 Central Ave. took time to find and extinguish.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Firefighters spent close to two hours tracking down and extinguishing a stubborn fire within the walls of a Central Avenue duplex on Tuesday afternoon.

The blaze started on the backside of the building, between the first and second floors, and sent smoke pouring from windows and eaves of the circa-1900 home. It was called in around 2 p.m.

"It looks like it started in the wall between the two apartments or around the wall between the two apartments," Fire Director Stephen Meranti said. "It got into the ceiling and it went both ways into both apartments."

Firefighters pulled out windows to vent the building and used a chainsaw to cut through the back wall just above the enclosed entryways in the back of 54-56 Central.

"They had quite a bit of smoke and heat on the second floor," Meranti said. "We didn't discover fire until we got into the back wall on the second floor."

The ceiling structure was open between the two halves of the house and the fire made its way above the kitchens.

Acting Fire Lt. Matt Labonte stood in the charred kitchen at 54 Central explained how the fire started on the 56 Central side and burned its way across the ceiling to the other.

"You can see how hot it was in here. We had to do a forced entry," he said. "We got in and we pulled down this tin ceiling right here. That fire was just engulfed in that room. It burned right in that whole ceiling."

There was a fire stop on the exterior wall that prevented the fire from going up through that wall but Labonte thought the tin ceiling was what allowed the blaze to fester and burn through the floor. The joists were gone and a hole opened above the kitchen; on the other side, the wall was burned through to 56 Central.

Meranti said there wasn't a fire stop on the exterior of 56 and the fire made its way up through the wall into the second floor and the attic.

The stairs to the upper floors were in the front of the house and it was difficult for firefighters to navigate their way with hoses up to the second floor. "It wasn't much fire in the attic but it took us a long time to vent the smoke," Meranti said.

The building incurred water, smoke, fire and structural damage. The cause is still under investigation and a fire watch was expected to go through the night to ensure it did not reignite. The property is listed as owned by George Morse III and is managed by Moresi & Associates, which had staff on hand to survey the damage and seal the building.

Only one side of the building was in use and it was believed the occupant was not in the house when the fire was discovered. Rescuers were able to get in to remove pets and the tenant reportedly took one of the dogs to the veterinarian to be checked out.

Central Avenue was blocked off for most of the afternoon. C shift was called in to cover the station and North Adams Ambulance, local and state police, and Clarksburg Fire Department's Rescue 5 responded to the scene.

A Gofundme has been set up to help the tenant, Juli Taylor and her children, who lost most of their belongings in the fire.

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