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Fire Displaces Four Pittsfield Families

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff

The flames poked through the roof of the building but Engine 5's crew controlled the blaze.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Four families are displaced after a fire caused significant damage to a Cherry Street apartment building.

But quick work and awareness from the firefighters ultimately saved the building. 

Deputy Fire Chief Matthew Noyes said firefighters were dispatched to 2-4 Cherry Street at about 6:30 Wednesday night for the reported fire and almost immediately after arriving, it was reported that the fire was out.
 
That wasn't the case.
 
"Upon arrival, we were advised that it was out. Engine 3 was the first crew in, Capt. Miller had his thermal imaging camera and noticed it was already going in the walls. He called for a line right away, we got a line up to him, they started hitting it from there," Noyes said. 
 
The occupants escaped the building and nobody was hurt. But the flames climbed up the walls, into the attic, and eventually popped through the roof. As Engine 3 worked on the walls on the second-floor apartment, a second engine was called to the scene.
 
"We immediately sent the second crew to come here into the attic, which is Engine 5's crew. It extended into the attic already and started breaking through the roof. They were able to keep it in check there," Noyes said.
 
In cold and blustering conditions, Noyes was near the point of calling in a second alarm to bring more firefighters to the scene but those working in the attic were able to get control of the blaze quickly. A total of three engines and 12 firefighters worked the scene.
 
"It was just a great stop by the crew. Everybody did their job like they were supposed to and worked like a well-oiled machine tonight," Noyes said.
 
The Red Cross was called to the scene to help the 10 individuals who will not be able to stay in the building tonight. A cat was reported missing but Noyes thinks that it likely got out through the open back door firefighters had used to access the building.
 
"There is quite a lot of damage to the roof but this is not a total loss by any means but there is going to be some serious work that needs to be done. There is water damage, smoke damage, so it is going to be a lot before anybody can go back in there," Noyes said.
 
Noyes said the fire had begun on the second floor, at 4 Cherry, in about the middle of the large multi-family building. It isn't yet known what caused the blaze but investigators were called to the scene. The deputy chief expects some answers on Thursday. 
 
The home is at the end of a dead end and that section was closed by the Police Department as the firefighters worked on the scene for more than an hour. The building is listed as being owned by Gary and Claudine Burchard, according to documents on file with the Register of Deeds.
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Pittsfield Police Warns of Phone Scam

Staff Reports
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Police are warning residents of a phone scam.
 
The department received a complaint on Monday that woman received a call asking for donations on behalf of the department. The caller asked the woman for her credit card information. Police, however, say that neither the Pittsfield Police Officers Union Local 447 nor the Pittsfield Police Supervisors Union Local 447S is currently running a fundraiser.
 
The woman did not give her credit card information and Police urge others to do the same. 
 
"As always, we urge residents to err on the side of caution if you are unsure of any calls you may receive asking for personal information such as credit card numbers, birthdays, or social security information," Police said in a statement. 
 
Police added that the company which conducts union fundraisers never asks for credit card information and if anybody is in any doubt they can contact the department directly with questions. 
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Crane Collision in Adams Sends One to Hospital

ADAMS, Mass. — A Thursday morning accident sent one person to the hospital and caused a spill of hydraulic fluid at Specialty Minerals Inc. 
 
The Adams Fire Department, Adams Ambulance, and Adams Police were detailed to Columbia Street at 6:38 a.m. Thursday for report of a vehicle versus crane accident with injuries. 
 
According to the report by the Fire Department, a box truck had struck the crane at the entrance to Specialty Minerals Inc. The operator of the box truck was injured and still in the vehicle. The crane operator did appear to be injured. 
 
The crane was hit near its hydraulic tank, causing a large spill. "Thanks to the expertise of employees of Specialty Minerals and Adams Excavating," they grabbed booms and spread an absorbant to contain the spill to the area immediately around the accident scene," the Fire Department post on Facebook states. "I believe preventing any potential for long-term environmental effects."
 
Fire and ambulance personnel removed the victim from the vehicle and he was transported to the hospital (unknown condition at this time). The remaining fire personnel assisted by the above named companies start the process to clean up.
 
"I would like to thank the employees of Specialty Minerals and Adams Excavating for their quick response and assistance. They were able to provide the Fire Department with materials to absorb up the spill," the Facebook post states. "They had the expertise and equipment to assist in cleaning up the site and preparing for the proper removal of all the dirty absorbent. The DEP and all necessary agencies were notified as required by law."
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Firefighters Battle Large Apartment Fire in North Adams

Staff Reports

 
Updated Jan. 11 at 10:10 a.m.: Tuesday’s fire at 246-248 Houghton St. has been determined accidental, according to State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey and Fire Chief Stephen A. Meranti.
 
The fire started in the front bedroom in a top floor apartment (the building is on an incline with apartments on the ground, first and second floor). The cause will remain officially undetermined, as investigators cannot eliminate smoking or a space heater as the specific cause. The space heater itself was too badly damaged in the fire to determine if it malfunctioned. The building is considered a total loss.
 
Working smoke alarms first alerted the resident to the fire. He attempted to fight the fire himself, which delayed notification to the Fire Department. He suffered minor injuries. No other residents of the six-unit building were injured.
 
The fire was jointly investigated by the North Adams Fire and Police departments and state police assigned to the Office of the State Fire Marshal.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Dozens of firefighters battled a persistent fire on Tuesday at an apartment building on Houghton Street. 

 
City firefighters were joined by members of the Clarksburg Volunteer and Williamstown fire departments in trying to bring the blaze under control while the Adams Fire Department covered the station with preparations to step in if needed. 
 
It took more than two hours to contain the fire enough for firefighters to attack it from the inside. 
 
"It got a good jump start on us," said Fire Chief Stephen Meranti, pointing to the left side of the building. "This whole side was fully involved and on the third floor, we had fire blowing out all those windows and it extended to the front. ...
 
"The guys did an excellent job."
 
The fire chief said the blaze appears to have originated in the second-floor apartment on the left side of the building and extended up into the small, shared attic space, where its spread rapidly. 
 
Firefighters were just entering the building at close to 3:30 p.m. to address the hotspots and begin the investigation.
 
The call came in at 12:45 p.m. and an all-call was sent out to bring in all shifts to reinforce the five firefighters on duty, then the mutual aid call went out. Houghton Street was blocked from Bracewell Avenue north. 
 
The building at 246-248 Houghton St. sits at the corner of Houghton and Brooklyn streets. It has been owned, through a trust, by the late Charles R. Ransford since 1999.
 
The structure was known as the Owen Morris House and, according to the city's historical survey, was constructed in 1884, although the city's assessor gives it a date of 1870. It was originally used as a residence and grocery store and built by Morris, who worked at Arnold Print Works. It had four units and a public library branch was located there for about 40 years until closing in 1976. 
 
There are six apartments in the structure now. Meranti said four of the units were occupied at the time of the fire but everyone made it out. According to scanner reports, a family of three and a mother and child were awaiting aid from the Red Cross. 
 
A woman said she'd rushed over when a neighbor had pointed to the smoke pouring out of the building. She was worried about her cousins and their dog, but said they'd been able to flee the building. 
 
Northern Berkshire EMS was on the scene with its rehab trailer. General Manager John Meaney Jr. said there no injuries but several people had been treated for smoke inhalation and referred to the emergency satellite facility. 
 
The hillside structure is three stories on the front and two in the back. Heavy smoke poured into the sky above the building and flames poked through the roof in numerous spots. One firefighter who attempted to gain the second-story deck in the rear was pushed back when flames erupted along the back edge of the building. 
 
The firefighters used a drone operated by department photographer Nicholas Mantello to get a bird's-eye view of the building. 
 
"We could see where the fire was going through the roof, where the heaviest fire was, and direct our lines," Meranti said.
 
The amount of water being poured on the structure was also affecting households in the area. The city through a Code Red alert advised neighboring areas to Houghton that their water may be brown or low pressure. 
 
He said the main problem was access -- the fire was too heavy for an interior attack or to ventilate the roof and there were power lines on three side of the building, limiting the ladder truck to the Brooklyn Street side. 
 
"The problem was there was so much fire on this side, with the limited manpower that we have, we had to focus completely on this side and we couldn't prevent it from extending to the other side [of the building]," he said. "We really we like to get inside and get the fire from the inside but this one was just too big for us to handle."
 
It was 3 p.m. before firefighters could get into the building after flooding the roof and directing water into the interior windows. 
 
"We're going to continue pulling ceilings and trying to access the building, we're going to try to get the hotspots and we'll break everything down and investigate it," Meranti said. 
 
He considered the building a total loss and said a fire watch would be at the property through the night. 
 
Goodwill Industries of the Berkshires and Southern Vermont posted in a comment on our Facebook page that tenants of the building can go to the North Adams store on State Street for an emergency voucher to help with clothing, coats, blankets and other essentials. Desperados on Eagle Street is offering a special on wings Tuesday night with all proceeds going to help the building's occupants.
 

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Teenager Shot In Pittsfield Sunday Night

Staff Reports
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A teenager was hospitalized after being shot on Franco Terrace.
 
Police responded to the area at about 5:30 p.m. to find the 15-year-old man suffering from what appeared to be a non-life threatening gunshot wound. Emergency medical technicians transported him to Berkshire Medical Center where he is currently being treated.
 
Police are asking for anybody with information regarding the incident to contact the detective bureau at 413-448-9705, through the drug tips hotline at 413-448-9708, or by texting PITTIP and your message to TIP411 (847411).
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