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North Adams Apartment Fire Forces Out Five Families

By Tammy Daniels
iBerkshires Staff

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — At least 20 people were forced from their apartments on Wednesday afternoon after a fire broke out in the attic above one of the units.

The report of a fire in one of the rear units in the six-apartment building on Crossey Place came in before 3 p.m. The call came into dispatch from a resident in the apartment who said her walls were warm and "turning black."

"There was a report of the walls turning black and paint bubbling on the walls, said Fire Chief Stephen Meranti. "We did indeed find the wall turning black and the paint bubbling."

An all-call was put out to bring in off-duty firefighters; three engines including the ladder truck were at the scene along with police, North Adams Ambulance Service and Animal Control.

"When we came down the street, smoke was coming out of the eaves all along the whole building, so that's when I initially called for an all-call," said acting Lt. Stefan Lamarre, who arrived with D group. Meranti had already called for A group to get them rolling. "Luckily there wasn't much of a fire load up there so it didn't spread. It could have been a heck of a lot worse."

The attic bay on the long two-story building is open all the way through, which could have led to a much worse fire, Meranti said.

"It appears to be knob and tube wiring in the attic with insulation blown around it," he said, which did not allow for heat from the wires to dissipate, plus a cabinet was on top of that section of the attic floor. "It heated up in the joist space and extended through several bays and dropped down."

The key to containing the fire was the speed at which the first group got in, located it and got a line on it, Meranti said. "It was good work by the guys that initially hit this."

Police Sgt. James Burdick said one of the hydrants near the structure didn't work and would be addressed to the city but everything else went smoothly. No one was injured and River Street was blocked between Houghton and Brown.

"We had people on scene in less than a minute," he said.

Meranti said everyone works together as a team.

The occupants, numbering between 20 and 25, were quickly evacuated from the structure but found themselves standing in the snow in frigid temperatures. Porches Inn opened up its lobby to keep them warm until the Red Cross could arrive and situate them for the night. Building owner Michael Deep also arrived to speak with his tenants. 

The damage appeared to be contained to the back two units, which suffered fire, smoke and water damage. The back units cannot be occupied until the electrical repairs and some structural work is completed. The rest of the apartments escaped damage but the power was shut off.

"They do have an electrician on site and he's going to try to get power so no one loses their Thanksgiving food that's in the freezers," Meranti said. "We're trying to get everything back on so they can get back in for Thanksgiving. That's our goal."

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Superior Court Briefs: Nov. 7 - Nov. 9

Staff Reports
Cases heard before Judge John Agostini on Monday, Nov. 7.
Israel Delgado, 43, of Melville, N.J. pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to violate drug laws, to wit possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.
He was ordered to pay a $500 fine. The charge stems from an incident in Great Barrington on February 20, 1998. 
A single count in trafficking in cocaine was dismissed by the state.
Nathan Tatro, 43, of North Adams pleaded guilty to three counts of assault and battery on a family or household member, two counts of strangulation or suffocation, and a single count of malicious damage to a motor vehicle in connection with incident in North Adams involving a 41-year-old woman between December 8, 2014 and May 17, 2015.
He pleaded guilty to a single count of intimidation of a witness in connection with an incident in North Adams between February 22, 2016 and March 13, 2016.
Tatro was ordered to serve 269 days at the Berkshire County House of Correction on the assault and battery charge and given two year's probation on the other charges. 
Two additional counts of intimidation of a witness and a single count of kidnapping were dismissed by the state.
Debra Davis, 42, of Great Barrington had not guilty pleas entered on her behalf on two counts of failing to report abuse of a disabled person, and single counts of accessory after the fact to wit, assault and battery on a disabled person, and misleading a police officer.
She was released on personal recognizance. The incidents allegedly occurred while Davis was employed by Eagleton School between November 1, 2015 and December 31, 2015.
Stephen Hyland, 32, of Otis had not guilty pleas entered on his behalf on single counts of rape of a child with force, intimidation of a witness, and open and gross lewdness.
He was released on $1,500 bail. The incidents allegedly occurred in Otis between January 1, 2011 and December 31, 2011 and involved a five-year-old girl.
Tamara Marie Morgan, 31, of Pittsfield had not guilty pleas entered on her behalf on single counts of misleading a police officer, and possession of morphine with intent to distribute.
She was released on $1,000 bail. Morgan allegedly misled police officers between August 2, 106 and August 3, 2016 and was in possession of morphine with the intent to sell it on August 24, 2016.
Cases heard before Judge John Agostini on Tuesday, Nov. 8.
Gregory Parslow Jr., 30, of Pittsfield pleaded guilty to single counts of possession of heroin with intent to distribute and possession of buprenorphine.
He was ordered to serve two and a half years at the Berkshire County House of Correction on the possession of heroin charge and concurrent time on the other. The charges stem from a motor vehicle stop and the execution of a search warrant at his home on October 9, 2015. 
A single count of conspiracy to violate drug laws was dismissed by the state.
Lawrence Murray, 33, of Pittsfield had not guilty pleas entered on his behalf on two counts of failure to file a report of child abuse as a mandated reporter, and misleading a police officer. 
He was released on personal recognizance. The incidents allegedly occurred while Murray was working at Eagleton School between November 1, 2015 and December 31, 2015.
Cases heard before Judge John Agostini on Wednesday, Nov. 9.
James Yeaman, 62, of Lee had not guilty pleas entered on his behalf on single counts of accessory after the fact, to wit assault and battery on a disabled person, intimidation of a witness, and misleading a police officer.
He was released on personal recognizance. The incidents allegedly occurred between July 11, 2013 and December 31, 2015 while he was working at Eagleton School.
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Superior Court Briefs: Nov. 3

Staff Reports
Cases heard before Judge John Agostini on Thursday, Nov. 3.
Jose Navarrete, 41, of Pittsfield was sentenced to four to five years at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction on a single count of trafficking in cocaine.
He was given one-year probation on a single count of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. He was sentenced to concurrent time on single counts of illegal ownership of a firearm, and possession of ammunition without a firearm identification card.
Navarrete pleaded guilty to the charges on Oct. 11. The charges stem from the execution of a search warrant at his Wellington Avenue home on November 12, 2015.
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Pittsfield Police Bringing Charges in 'G' Vandalism Case

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Police believe they have nabbed the vandal who's been spray painting the letter "G" all over the city.

Lt. Gary Traversa reported on Monday that nine counts of vandalism will be filed against one George O'Neil, 38, of  Lincoln Street.

The department's been investigating the appearance of the mysterious "Gs" painted on numerous road signs, utility boxes, bridges, and both public and private buildings throughout the city since early September. It was not believed to be related in any way to gang activity and police were sure it was one person doing the tagging.

The majority of the vandalism had not been directly reported to the Police Department by property owners. But police, working those who did, and information provided by citizens "familiar with the suspect" led the pending criminal charges.

The reason for the Gs, other than a possible initial, is still unknown.

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Police Warn of 'Bail Money' Phone Scam

RICHMOND, Mass. — Berkshire District Attorney David F. Capeless says some Berkshire County residents are being victimized by a telephone scam.  

Over the past several days, the State Police Barracks in Lee has investigated several incidents in Richmond involving telephone fraud. In this scheme, the caller claims to be a relative, says they have been arrested and asks the person answering the call to send bail money. In many instances, the caller has accurate personal information about the person being called as well as information about the family member they are impersonating, information which is easily obtained on the internet.  

The victim is then asked to send cash, buy gift cards or iTune cards and to send them to a specific location so their loved one can be released from police custody.  

Police are urging anyone who receives a call of this type to be suspicious and to report any such call to the state police or local police department immediately. Investigators warn against sending cash or gift cards through the mail as this is a phone scam.

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