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Pittsfield Firefighters Fight 3-Alarm Blaze on Wahconah St.

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff
The fire reportedly started in the kitchen and spread to the attic.

Updated on Feb. 26: The fire was under control but firefighters were still extinguishing hotspots shortly before 2 a.m. Wednesday.

Deputy Chief Mark Cancilla said five engines and one ladder were dispatched to the scene. A second ladder was responded with off-duty personnel and a ladder truck from Lenox was in the city.

There were no civilian injuries but one firefighter was taken to Berkshire Medical Center with a minor hand injury.

The building incurred heavy fire damage to the second-floor and attic, and water and smoke damage in the lower floors.

It was unclear how many people were left homeless by the blaze, which is still undetermined at this time.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Firefighters were battling a three-alarm blaze at an apartment house on Wahconah Street on Tuesday night.

The fire was called in at around 9 p.m. as a kitchen fire that was spreading to the attic at 150 Wahconah St.

"On arrival, the guys had a lot of smoke coming out of the attic eaves so they started setting up defensive operations," Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski said at scene. "Unfortunately, they couldn't get their ladders too close to the building because of power lines in the way."   

Western Massachusetts Electric Co. had to be called to cut the power before the fire trucks could be positioned to attack the roof of the two-story residence.

Their response was further inhibited by an old metal room that was under the newer asphalt; they couldn't cut through the attic because of the metal.

"The fire appeared to be spreading through the two roof lines," Czerwinski said. "That's why it looks so bad right now."

At 10:30 p.m. he said crews were "busy chasing the fire through the attic area" and, once it settles down, firefighters would try to attack from the interior.

There is believed to be four units in the building but it was not clear how many people lived in the residence or which units were occupied. Czerwinski said it was assumed someone was in the building when the fire started because it was reported as a kitchen fire.

No one was reported injured but Wahconah Street is closed from the ballpark to the BP station. The fire chief expected the street to be closed most if not all night.

All on-duty crews were at the scene and other firefighters were called in. Mutual aid departments were covering the city, Czerwinski believe Lenox and Dalton, and Hinsdale's rehab unit was requested so firefighters could warm up in the frigid temperatures.

The Red Cross reported at least four people were affected by the fire, two adults and two children.

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Pittsfield Police Mourn Loss of K-9 Nero

Pittsfield Police Department
Nero served with the Pittsfield Police Department since 2006.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — It is with deep sadness and regret that the Pittsfield Police Department announces the passing of K-9 Nero.

Nero died on Friday, Feb. 14, 2014, after a long illness. He had worked alongside his handler, Officer James Parise, since 2006.

In his nearly eight years with the department, Nero responded to 419 K-9 calls in Pittsfield, throughout Berkshire County and elsewhere in Western Massachusetts. During that time, he was responsible for the apprehension of numerous dangerous felons and the seizure of more than 40 pounds of illegal drugs.

In 2009, K-9 Nero received the department's Life Saving Commendation for his actions in locating a woman who had wandered away from a homeless shelter in freezing temperatures and not dressed for the weather. Nero located the missing woman trying tokeep warm under a pile of leaves. In 2012, Nero tracked an elderly man who had wandered from his home in freezing cold temperatures. After a two-mile track, Nero located the man in a barn, where he was seeking shelter and trying to stay warm.

In addition to his enforcement and operations duties, K-9 Nero participated in hundreds of K-9 demonstrations for schoolchildren throughout Berkshire County. Nero was requested on a regular basis by the elementary schools in Pittsfield, where he and Officer Parise would teach young children about police work, the K9 program, and most importantly, how to be act around dogs in order to avoid being accidently bitten.

K-9 Nero was a valued and productive member of the Pittsfield Police Department and will be missed greatly.

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Superior Court Briefs: February 20

Staff Reports

Cases heard before Judge John Agostini on Thursday, February 20.

Bruce Lee Trudeau, 37, of North Adams pleaded guilty to four counts of larceny under $250, three counts of breaking and entering a motor vehicle in the daytime, three counts of breaking and entering in the nighttime, two counts of breaking and entering in the daytime, and single counts of larceny of drugs, larceny under $250 from a person 60 years of age or older and malicious destruction of property.

He was ordered to serve concurrent two to three years at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction on the charges of breaking and entering, larceny of a drug and malicious destruction of property. He was given concurrent time at the Berkshire County House of Correction on the other charges.

The incidents occurred in Williamstown, North Adams and Pittsfield between June 14, 2013 and September 19, 2013.

Matthew Rodriguez, 19, of North Adams pleaded guilty to six counts of larceny of a motor vehicle, three counts of wanton destruction of property, three counts of larceny under $250, two counts of larceny of a credit card, two counts of breaking and entering a motor vehicle in the nighttime and a single counts of receiving stolen property over $250.

He was ordered to serve concurrent two to four years at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction on the larceny of a motor vehicle, receiving stolen property and breaking and entering a motor vehicle charges. He was give concurrent time at the Berkshire County House of Correction on the others.

Single counts of breaking and entering a motor vehicle with intent to commit a felony, larceny over $250 and common and notorious thief were dismissed by the state. The charges stem from a series of incidents in North Adams, Adams, Cheshire and Florida between April 5, 2013 and April 15, 2013.

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Williamstown Couple Arraigned on Larceny Charges

Staff Reports

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Two former employees of Village Ambulance in Williamstown were arraigned Wednesday afternoon in Berkshire Superior Court on larceny charges.

The married couple, Albert H. Miller, 59, and Cara J. Miller, 58, had not guilty-pleas entered on their behalf before Judge John Agostini, who released both on personal recognize.

The Millers are accused of stealing some $240,000 from the nonprofit ambulance service over a period of five years, until their dismissal in December 2011. Albert Miller was the general manager.

Albert Miller is charged with one count of larceny, ongoing and continuing offense and Cara Miller also with one count of larceny, ongoing and continuing offense, and one count of embezzlement.

The investigation was conducted by state police detectives assigned to the district attorney's office.

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Fire Damages Student Apartment Near MCLA

Staff Reports
Fire Director Stephen Meranti investigates a second-floor fire at the Boardman Block.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Firefighters made quick work Sunday of a fire in a second-floor bedroom in the Boardman Block.

"When we arrived we found a fire in one of the rooms and it was contained to one room," said Fire Director Stephen Meranti. "At this point, it's under investigation."

The block-long apartment building along Montana Street is regularly occupied by students attending Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

The Fire Department responded to the call at about 4:30 p.m. The fire was contained by 5 p.m. but Montana Street was closed off for nearly two hours as the scene was investigated.

Meranti said at least two people were evacuating the affected apartment when firefighters arrived.

"The police evacuated the whole building and sent them over to [MCLA] dining hall, I believe, and once we checked all the apartments for carbon monoxide we allowed them back in," he said.

Arrangements were made by building's owner for the occupants of the fire-damaged apartment.

The fire appeared to be in unit 45 in the back of the building. Firefighters tossed a burnt office chair out the window to clear the area and a hose was still streaming water out onto the back roof shortly after 5 p.m.

The state fire marshal was called in to investigate the cause.

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