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Smoke And Fire Destroys North Adams' Family Home
By Andy McKeever On: 10:58AM / Tuesday July 03, 2012

The fire started in a closet on the first floor.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — An early morning blaze on East Quincy Street Tuesday left a family of four searching for a place to stay.

According to Fire Director Stephen Meranti, firefighters responded to a call at 1:21 a.m. to 70 East Quincy St. for a fire on the first floor. Upon arrival the fire was pinpointed to a closet in a downstairs bedroom and firefighters were quick to snuff it out. However, smoke filled the house and it is now unlivable.

"That's where the majority of the fire was contained," Meranti said. "It was knocked down fairly quick but we spent a lot of time ventilating it. It's a large house and the smoke went throughout."

The fire was detected by owner Michael Perras after the smoke had woke him up. The house did have working fire alarms but Perras discovered it first and got his wife, daughter and two pets outside. He then ran back into the single family home to get the phone to call 911.

Meranti said the fire was likely smoldering for a while and when Perras opened the closet door, that kicked up the flames.

"I smelled it. It woke me up... I grabbed the kid and the dogs and got out," Perras said. "That black [smoke] came quick."

While Meranti said the cause of the fire is still under investigation, Perras said he thinks it may have been caused by a lightbulb. The closet is in the room of his oldest daughter, who was not home at the time.

The home is insured and an adjuster is expected to arrive soon. Perras' wife, Jane, said she is currently searching for a place to stay temporarily that is dog friendly.

"We're going to try and keep our routine up as much as possible," Jane Perras said, referring to keeping her 8-year-old in camp and getting through the holiday. "We're alive and we can replace what's lost."

Meranti said most of the personal items were damaged by the smoke.

Firefighters had the house on fire watch throughout the morning and were still on the scene at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday investigating the cause.

"It's not livable right now because of the smoke damage," Meranti said.

Michael Perras said the family purchased the home about two years ago.

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Superior Court Briefs: June 25 - June 28
Staff Reports On: 04:01PM / Monday July 02, 2012
Cases heard before Judge Mary Lou Rup on Monday, June 25.

Brian Podavini, 41, of Pittsfield had not guilty pleas entered on his behalf on single counts of conspiracy to violate drug laws and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.

He was released on personal recognizance. Podavini allegedly conspired with others to sell cocaine in Pittsfield on April 3 and was in possession of the drug with the intent to sell on the same date.

Carey Pilot, 39, of Pittsfield had a not guilty plea entered on her behalf on a single count of conspiracy to violate drug laws. to wit: possession of cocaine.

She was released on personal recognizance. Pilot allegedly conspired with others to possess cocaine in Pittsfield on March 7.

Mario Babbs, 25, of North Adams had not guilty pleas entered on his behalf on single counts of armed assault with intent to murder and assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon.

He was ordered to be held at the Berkshire County House of Correction without bail. Babbs allegedly stabbed a 27-year-old man in North Adams on June 2.

Cases heard before Judge Mary Lou Rup on Tuesday, June 26.

J.C. Chadwell, 33, of Pittsfield was sentenced to three and a half to five and a half years in prison after pleading guilty on June 11 to gun charges.

Chadwell pleaded guilty to single counts of possession of a firearm with a prior conviction for a violent or drug crime and possession of ammunition without a firearm identification card.

He was sentenced to three and a half to five and a half years at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction on the possession of a firearm charge and a concurrent sentence at the Berkshire County House of Correction on the ammunition charge.

The charges stem from an incident in Pittsfield on August 22, 2009.

Cases heard before Judge Mary Lou Rup on Wednesday, June 28.

Jermaine Eurquhart, 40, of Pittsfield had a not guilty plea entered on his behalf on a single count of conspiracy to violate drug laws, to wit: distribution of cocaine.

He was released on $300 bail. Eurquhart allegedly conspired with others to sell cocaine in Pittsfield on March 4.

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Pittsfield Blogger Dan Valenti Cited For Harassment
Staff Reports On: 02:46PM / Wednesday June 27, 2012
Updated on June 27, 2012 at 10:50 with a comment from Dan Valenti.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A local blogger was ordered to remove all references to Meredith Nilan after being dealt a harassment prevention order.

The Berkshire Eagle is reporting that Nilan, who was recently the subject of a highly publicized hit and run pedestrian accident, was granted the order in Central Berkshire District Court on Wednesday.

The order requires Valenti to remove any and all references to her as well as stay 100 yards away from her, stay away from her home and place of employment and refrain from any contact or abuse.

The order is effective until Monday, July 9, when a court hearing will take place.

Valenti, a former columnist for both The Berkshire Eagle and the Pittsfield Gazette, started his own blog, Planet Valenti, in 2010 and has made a name for himself with his brash criticism of local politics. Nilan, the daughter of Berkshire Superior Court Probation Chief Clifford Nilan, was the focus of numerous postings by Valenti. Those postings frequently speculated on her disposition, parentage, political pull and her actions before and after the incident.

On Wednesday, Valenti told iBerkshires via email that he had yet to see the judge's decision and he would have to see that before determining his next course of action.

"I found out about it while reading the comments on my blog, ironically," Valenti said. "I've never had any contact with Ms. Nilan nor do I intend that. I will also add that this case brings up an interesting First Amendment discussion."

Editor's note: The hit-and-run charge was dismissed. We have corrected the description.

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Hermann Alexander's Owner Pleads Not Guilty To Gambling Charge
Staff Reports On: 03:41PM / Monday June 25, 2012
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The owner of Herman Alexander's Restaurant pleaded not guilty in Berkshire Superior Court on Monday to illegal gambling charges.

Mitchell Grossjung, 25, of Pittsfield had a not guilty plea entered on his behalf on a single count of keeping a place for registering bets. He was released by Judge Mary Lou Rup on $300 cash bail.

Grossjung allegedly provided illegal poker machines to his customers. The bar was raided on the night of April 27 because Police suspected the location was a "retail center of cocaine distribution."

The raid turned up little evidence of drug use except some corners of plastic bags that are used to hold small amount of cocaine, according to Police. The gambling charges stem from that raid.

Since the raid, Police have said that the homes of alleged cocaine dealers believed to be operating out of the bar have been raided and turned up more than 160 grams of cocaine. The Lyman Street bar's license was suspended for 60 day by the city's licensing board.

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North Adams Firefighters Battle Early Morning Blaze
Staff Reports On: 11:03AM / Sunday June 24, 2012
Above, the entire top floor of 69 Chase Ave. was in flames on Sunday morning. Left, the alleyway between the vacant structure and neighboring home is filled with debris that injured a firefighter running a line to the back of the property.
Update at 5 p.m.:

The firefighter injured in this morning's fire has been treated and released from North Adams Regional Hospital.

Fire Director Stephen Meranti said Firefighter Ray King was running a hose between the burning house at 69 Chase Ave. and the neighboring home when the wall collapsed.

"Ray King was stretching a line to the rear when the top of the rear wall fell and struck him in the head," said Meranti.

King is the firefighter who saved the pet duck from a fire on Hoosac Street earlier this month. He was taken to the hospital by North Adams Ambulance Service.

Firefighters were trying to protect buildings on three sides of the burning building at the time — residences on each side and a barn only yards away in the rear.

The blue house, seen in the photo, suffered some damage to its vinyl siding. Both residences were evacuated while firefighters contained the blaze. Residents across the street said they remained in their homes but were awakened by the smoke and flames.

Meranti said multiple calls were made reporting the fire. The arriving truck on the scene called in all off-duty firefighters to battle the blaze that could be seen roaring through the attic.

"It was well involved," he said. "It had a good jump on us. It went up the rear stairway and into the attic."

The fire is under investigation by North Adams Fire Department and the state fire marshal's office. Electrical has been ruled out as a cause because the building has been vacant for some time and there are no utilities.

The house is listed among 13 North Adams properties owned by William R. Romeo 2004 Revocable Trust on a deed dated 2006. It has been vacant for some time.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Firefighters battled a structure fire early Sunday morning that destroyed a vacant home on Chase Avenue.

The fire was reported at about 5 a.m. The flames could be seen bursting through the roof and a section of the house collapsed. The unoccupied structure was in a close-packed residential area on the north side of the city's downtown.

A firefighter incurred injuries, reportedly minor, at the scene and was taken to North Adams Regional Hospital.

No further information was immediately available.

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