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Cheshire Fire Blamed on Heating System; Structure a Total Loss

By Jack Guerino
iBerkshires Staff

The building burned to the ground. 
CHESHIRE, Mass. — The fire that destroyed a local business is believed to have started in an attached garage.
 
Fire Chief Thomas Francesconi said the blaze that razed the former Kubota dealership last week likely started from the heating system. 
 
"The Mass State Fire Marshal's office did investigate the scene the following day. The cause of the fire is officially listed as undetermined, however, both myself and the investigating marshal believe the fire started with the heating system in the garage area," Francesconi said. "This was the area of origin for the fire."
 
The fire burned the building to the ground the night of Jan 4 during a blizzard that blew through the county with extremely cold temperatures and forceful winds. The property had been purchased some months before by J. Richardson Contracting. One of the company's vans was parked in the garage.
 
The Fire Department received the call a little before 7:30 p.m. but because of the snowy condition of the sparsely traveled road the first arriving engine went off the road and the second engine lost all electric once arriving on scene and could not flow water.
 
Francesconi said the structure is a total loss.
 
"The fire already had a very firm hold on the building prior to the fire being observed then called in," he said. "Due to the weather and the remoteness of the location, the area is not heavily traveled so the fire had an opportunity to build and progress at a very high rate."
 
Even getting water to the site was a challenge and five tanker trucks were shuttling water from Hoosac Valley High School. This trip took at least 20 minutes.
 
Mutual aid was needed from surrounding communities.  Adams sent an engine while the Adams Forest Wardens, Savoy and Lanesborough departments sent tankers. Dalton Fire Department also responded.
 
The Cheshire Highway Department was able to return the engine that went off road to the road.
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Firefighters Battle With Difficult Blaze At Cheshire Business

By Tammy Daniels & Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff

CHESHIRE, Mass. — Firefighters battled a difficult blaze that destroyed a Windsor Road business Thursday night.

The Fire Department received a call at 7:21 p.m. of a garage fire as a blizzard swept through the region with frigid temperatures and gusty winds. Upon arrival, the former Kubota dealership was already heavily engulfed in flames.

"Our initial responders reported heavy fire from the garage spreading to the service area. We had a full response. Our first arriving engine went off the road, into a snow bank. Our second engine, when he got here, had electrical issues and lost all electric. We couldn't even flow water," Fire Chief Thomas Francesconi said.

The structure was recently purchased by J. Richardson Contracting. Francesconi said later in the evening that the cause was not yet known but appeared to have begun in the garage area based on initial reports. 

The initial responding officer had called immediately for mutual aid from multiple towns. Adams sent an engine while the Adams Forest Wardens, Savoy and Lanesborough departments sent tankers. Dalton Fire Department also responded.

Cheshire got its engine back in service with help from the Highway Department.

"Fortunately for us, our Highway Department was right on the ball. Our engine went off the side of the road and into the snow and they pulled our engine out," Francesconi said.

The former dealership is about three miles off Route 116, and the wind fueled and blew the blaze from the garage and into the former showroom area.

"If the wind wasn't so bad, it wouldn't have taken over on us so bad," the chief said.

The wind had not only fueled the blaze, but the fire also had a head start on responders. The building is on a infrequently traveled, narrow road, and by the time the department arrived it was "50 percent" involved.

"It is not a heavily traveled road, especially during a storm. You can go 10 minutes without seeing a car so nobody would know there was even a fire," Francesconi said.

One of the town's highway crew was plowing on Wells Road when he heard the call. He immediately headed to the scene and said the walls of the building were already collapsing. 

The firefighters struggled to get enough water to contain the scene. The flames towered high into the air while five tanker trucks were shuttling water from Hoosac Valley High School -- a trip that was taking at least take 20 minutes. Tankers from the three neighboring towns and from Cheshire shuttled water to the scene until the Hoosac Valley hydrants froze over. There are no hydrants in that area of Windsor Road.

When the wind whipped up, it sent billows of smoke, snow and sparks across the snow-covered yard.

Hinsdale Fire sent its rehab bus and North Adams Ambulance provided rehab on site and firefighters were routinely checking in to be safe. It could not put up its large tent because of the wind. Adams Ambulance also responded to the scene.

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Adams Woman Charged With Stealing Four Cars in One Day

By Jack Guerino
iBerkshires Staff

CHESHIRE, Mass. — Cheshire Police arrested an Adams woman Friday night who allegedly stole four cars — including a Lexus and BMW — in one day between Adams and Lenox. 

Cheshire Police Chief Tim Garner said an officer arrested 33-year-old Chandra Bourelle late Friday night near the town line after she lost control of a car she had stolen.

But it wasn't her first alleged Grand Theft Auto of the night.

Garner said she had been caught earlier in the day stealing a motor vehicle in Adams. She made bail and was released. She then stole a car that had been left running from Racing Mart in Adams, he said.

She took off to Cranwell in Lenox, where she ditched the Adams car and stole another car, the police chief said. After that, she headed to Seven Hills Inn in Lenox, where she reportedly stole yet another car and headed back toward Adams.

"She stole another one in Adams, drove it to Lenox, stole another one, left that one, and drove basically right across the street, stole another one and left the second one," Garner said. "The second one was running at Racing Mart. How she got the Lexus from Cranwell and a BMW from Seven Hills, I don't know."

Garner said a Cheshire officer was on Reservoir Road driving toward Fred Mason Road when he saw the stolen car coming toward him.

"This was the fourth stolen car of the day for this girl, so he spins around to go after her," he said. "She takes off flying so he radios Adams because he thought she was heading that way."

He said the officer found her on East View Drive, and she pulled out onto Route 8 and gunned it north to Adams.

Garner said she lost control of her car near Duke's Sand & Gravel and almost ran into a wrecker.

A wrecker on its way back to Lenox.

"She almost hit a flatbed wrecker from Lenox that had just dropped off the first stolen car so while he was in town he took the last car she stole and brought it back to Lenox," Garner said.

Garner said Bourelle's bail was revoked when she appeared in Northern Berkshire District Court on Monday. 

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Hoosac Valley High Informs Parents of Facebook Threat

CHESHIRE, Mass. — School officials say they are working with local law enforcement on strengthening school security after a described "threat" was made on Facebook. 
 
Superintendent Robert Putnam did provide information on the nature of the threat, when it occurred or how it was brought to the school's attention. A letter was sent home with Hoosac Valley High and Middle School students on Thursday, the first day of school.
 
"A threat was made on Facebook that could have potentially impacted Hoosac Valley High School," he wrote. "We have been working closely with Adams Police Department, the Cheshire Police Department, and the state police since Monday to craft and implement a plan that strengthens our ongoing efforts to ensure a safe school environment. 
 
"Together with our law enforcement partners we are confident that we are ready to address all safety concerns at arrival, departure, and throughout the day."
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Hoosac Valley Student Killed in Motor Vehicle Accident

CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Hoosac Valley High School community is mourning the tragic death of one its students late Monday night. 
 
Kaliq Sherman, a junior, was killed in a single car accident on upper East Hoosac Street. 
 
There were five other teenagers in the care with him, including three Hoosac students who incurred injuries in the crash. All five teens were taken to Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield by ambulance and were treated for minor injuries. 
 
According to the district attorney's office, the accident occurred about 11:30 on Monday night. When emergency responders arrived on the scene they found a vehicle that had travelled down a steep embankment and was resting on the passenger side against a tree.
 
Sherman, 17, of Adams was inside the vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene. Five other occupants of the vehicle were located and taken to Berkshire Medical Center for treatment of minor injuries. 
 
The accident remains under investigation by state police detectives assigned to the district attorney's office, state troopers from Crime Scene Services (CSS) and the Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Section (CARS) and members of the Adams Police Department.
 
Hoosac Princial Jeremiah Ames said Sherman was a member of the track team and "an enthusiastic artist."
 
"We have spoken with all of our students about what occurred," he wrote in an email to the Hoosac community and parents. 
 
Parents were informed earlier on Tuesday about the incident and told that counselors would be available for students who needed to speak with them or would be given some time alone to deal to process what had happened. 
 
"The best thing for many of our students today will be to stick to established routines," Ames wrote. "Know that we will continue to do all we can to support your children through this difficult time."  
 
Superintendent Robert Putnam said the school's Crisis Team went to work early in the morning to provide timely information and emotional support for students, families, and staff. Neighboring districts  alsocalled in to offer support and personnel and counselors from McCann Technical School and C.T. Plunkett joined the Hoosac Valley team to provide additional support because of their familiarity with our students.  
 
"The ACRSD deeply appreciates the offer of support and sympathy from our neighbors," Putnam wrote. "The thoughts and prayers of the entire ACRSD community go out to the families of the students involved."
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