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Lightning Strikes Williamstown Home

Tammy Daniels

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — A single-family residence at 41 John St. was heavily damaged by fire early Saturday morning after a lightning bolt apparently bounced off a nearby pine tree and struck the roof. It was the second time in as many years that the town's suffered a devastating strike.

The renovated attic space of the home, owned by Robert Crosky, was gutted by flames as firefighters battled the blaze for an hour and a half in a downpour before getting it under control.

Chief Craig Pedercini takes pictures of the scene. Right, the tree that was struck is close to the house.

"We made a couple of advances but we were pushed back," said Fire Chief Craig Pedercini early Saturday afternoon, as he stood next a pile of personal items and sopping insulation in the back yard. "We had to take a defensive mode and hit it heavy from the outside."

The difficulty in accessing the third floor was compounded by the home's configuration; lots of hose had to be hauled up stairs and down hallways. On the third try, firefighters were able to get into the area and contain the blaze.

"The guys did a great job — from here, from Pownal, from Clarksburg — as far as I'm concerned," said Pedercini.

The Clarksburg and Pownal, Vt., fire departments were called in for mutual aid, a standard practice for structure fires. The Stamford, Vt., Fire Department covered the Clarksburg station.

The big cracking boom over Williamstown could be heard from Pownal to Clarksburg, waking many from slumber at about 3 a.m.

It woke Pedercini out of a sound sleep. He said all he could think was "I hope that didn't hit anything." But minutes later, the reports came in of a fire at the corner of John and Manning streets, a dense neighborhood. By the time firefighters arrived, flames were coming through the roof.

Crosky was home alone; his wife and two children were out of town. Pedercini said Crosky told him he was wakened by the boom and went into the hallway and saw ceiling plaster on the floor and flames peeking through a hole in the ceiling. He immediately called 911.

Pedercini didn't want to speculate on the cost of the damage, other than to say it would be significant. The third floor's two bedrooms and a bathroom were destroyed, large sections of roof are gone and the downstairs was heavily damaged.

"There was a tremendous amount of water damage and some smoke damage," said Pedercini. "It's going to be a total renovation."

The 80-foot pine outside the front door was scarred by the lightning but didn't appear otherwise damaged, although Pedericini said he's suggested the homeowner have it checked. The family's pet dog and bird also survived the blaze.

Crosky was busy with an insurance adjuster and figuring out what he and his family were going to do next. "I have to find where we're going to live for now."

In August 2008, a bolt of lightning hit the hay barn at Bonnie Lea Farm, burning it to the ground; two horses had been killed lightning there in 2005. A month before that, a strike barely missed a home on Pine Cobble Road, taking out the backyard swing set instead.

"It's devastating. We leave but the homeowner still has to deal with this," said Pedercini. "But you know, the communities ... just come together and offer their assistance."


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At right, the bolt left a large scar nearly three-quarters of the way up the tree.

 

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Car Hits House Porch in North Adams

Staff Reports

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A Williamstown woman was taken to North Adams Regional Hospital after the car she was driving ran into a porch on West main Street.

Debora A. Harmatz, 50, of Maple Street was westbound at about 2:40 p.m. when her 1996 black Saturn CP left the roadway and rammed into the steps leading up to a porch at 287 West Main St. residence.

A call reporting the crash was made by an employee at the nearby Melissa's Hair & Nail Salon. A nieghbor said he came outside when he heard a loud crash and saw the car.

The Police and Fire departments responded to the scene, as did the North Adams Ambulance. A dog that was in the vehicle reportedly jumped out after the crash and the animal control officer was called.

The Saturn suffered front-end damage and was towed from the scene by Dean's Quality Auto; the wooden steps were demolished and a joist knocked out from the porch, along with other damage. No word if the dog was recovered yet.

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North Adams Woman Charge With Trafficking

Staff Reports

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A North Adams woman was arraigned Friday morning in Berkshire Superior Court on a drug charge. 

Eden J. Lemaire, 20, of Walnut Street had not-guilty pleas entered on her behalf on single counts of trafficking in Oxycontin and conspiracy to violate drug laws.

She appeared before Judge John A. Agostini, who released her on personal recognizance.

The charges stem from the execution of a search warrant at the Willows Motel in Williamstown on April 2, 2010. The investigation was conducted by members of the Adams, North Adams and Williamstown police departments and state troopers assigned to the district attorney's office, members of the Berkshire County Drug Task Force.

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Swift Storm Knocks Out Power

Staff Reports

Cranwell Resort in Lenox tweeted us this photo of a large tree that fell after the storm came through. The pic was taken by the resort's director of sales, Dawn R. Jacobsson.

 NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Several sections of the county were hit by a fast-moving storm that downed trees and power lines. At 9 p.m., Western Mass. Electric Co. was reporting some 22,000 customers out of power in Berkshire, Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin counties.


The wind split this tree in Williamstown.

Nearly all of New Ashford was reported out of power and nearly half of nearby Lanesborough. The hilltowns, including Becket and Washington, weathered the storm better, with no reported outages.

National Grid reported minor, scattered outages throughout, with about 31 customers out of power on Florida Mountain.

One our readers reported traffic lights out in Pittsfield shortly after the storm moved through and Cranwell Resort sent a picture of a large tree down in its driveway. "Tree down on road on our property — Our topnotch crew is already on the scene, removing debris," the Lenox resort tweeted us. A section of a large tree in Williamstown near the Dunkin' Donuts on Main Street also came down in the storm.

"Every county in WMECo's service area is affected, with the most customers without power in the towns of Sunderland, Agawam, Ludlow, Springfield, West Springfield, Hadley and Southampton," according to a press statement from WMECo.

WMECo reminds residents to treat all wires as live and stay a minimum of 10 feet away. Even getting close to an energized wire can have deadly consequences. Call 911 or WMECo immediately.

Home generators should always be installed by a qualified electrician. Improperly installed generators can backfeed into our lines, which could be deadly to our workers.

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Richmond Cottage Destroyed by Fire

Berkshire News Network

RICHMOND, Mass. — With Thursday's high winds, it wasn't a good day to do any outside burning but apparently, one Richmond resident didn't think so — with terrible results.

Police Officer Tom Grizzy said volunteer firefighters from Richmond, Hancock, West Stockbridge and Canaan, N.Y., responded to the 1 p.m. call after sparks from a controlled burn landed on an abandoned cottage on Richmond Shores.

The cottage was totally destroyed by the blaze. After the fire was knocked down, a backhoe was brought in to level the smoldering ruins. Police said action against the neighbor who decided burn yard waste in high winds may be pending.

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