Arsonist Targets 8 Buildings in Great Barrington
Update: Thursday, 10 p.m.: Red Crow News reports that artist David Pixley, 62, was arraigned Thursday morning in Southern Berkshire District Court on on two of counts of arson, five of attempting to burn buildings, and three of attempting to burn vehicles.
Pixley is being held on $50,000 bail after being caught by police in the early morning hours allegedly trying to set a fire at TD Banknorth. Pixley allgedy fled the scene, according to Red Crow News, and police gave chase, taking him into custody at his 20 Hollenbeck Ave. apartment.
Update Thursday, 10:48 a.m.: Police have arrested a suspect in connection with at least two of Wednesday's arson fires in Great Barrington. The unidentified man was arrested at about 2 a.m. on Thursday morning when he was found in the parking lot of TD Banknorth on 271 Main St., allegedly in the act of trying to start yet another fire.
Debris behind Barrington Outfitters. The back of the building sustained damage after someone set fire to it.
GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — Eight buildings in the downtown and three motor vehicles were targeted by an unknown arsonist early Wednesday morning. Police are looking for a man wearing a dark-colored poncho and black North Face winter gloves.
Fires were set at Barrington Outfitters on Main Street and Lee Bank; combustibles were found in the other locations but no fires set, according to authorities.
The blazes occurred at about 1:40 a.m., according to a statement from Town Manager Kevin O'Donnell, and were brought under control by the Fire Department and four mutual aid towns. No one was injured in either case.
"Police investigation determined that the fires were set. Five other buildings, Shopper's Guide, Foster's Hardware, Toole Insurance Agency, Berkshire Block and Gypsy Joynt, locations adjacent to the Foster's Hardware parking lot, were also targeted as well as the Tune Street building on Railroad Street with combustibles and flammable liquids, but were not set on fire. Three vehicles in the Foster's parking lot had flammable liquid applied to them, but were not burned."
Barrington Outfitters was closed earlier this morning while police and contractors assessed the damage, which was done to the back of the store. Police and the owners, the Druckers, declined to comment on the blaze.
The second fire started in a vacant store front in the Lee Bank building that was left unlocked. Fire Chief Harry Jennings used the town's reverse 911 system to notify business owners about clearing debris and securing their businesses properly at night.
Police picked up a homeless man, 19-year-old Matthew Wilcox of Egremont Plain Road, who they said broke into the storage shed behind Barrington Outfitters. According to the town statement, police do not believe Wilcox was involved in the fires but he has not been ruled out. He was arraigned this morning in Southern Berkshire District Court on charges of breaking and entering and trespassing.
Police are working with the state police Crime Scene Services, troopers assigned to the state fire marshal's office and district attorney's office, and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. They canvassed the downtown area and distributed a photo of the suspect.
The fire marshal's Arson Reward Program offers up to $5,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction. Anyone with information is asked to call 800-682-9229 or Police Chief William Walsh at 413-528-0306.
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North Adams Fire Damages Apartment
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — An apartment fire at 585 State Road on Wednesday afternoon has left a couple temporarily homeless and shut down traffic on the busy highway for nearly an hour.
The fire was contained to the Apartment B duplex on the second floor but a second apartment with a single occupant suffered smoke damage. No one was injured and all the occupants evacuated safely.
When firefighters arrived they were unsure if there was anybody still in the building. The responders broke into two crews – one to search and the other to extinguish the fire in the second-floor bedroom, according to Fire Director Stephen Meranti.
"We had multiple calls on it so we call in all off-duty personnel," Meranti said. "The guys did a great job knocking it down quickly."
Utilities were also disconnected and firefighters protected the first floor with tarps to prevent water damage.
The building was being checked by Building Inspector William Meranti but was not believed to have suffered any structural damage. A fire watch was being set for the night.
The Red Cross was also called in for assistance.
The road, Route 2, was closed for about an hour between West Liquors and Ashton Avenue, although limited traffic was allowed through.
The fire was reported at 1:15 p.m. by multiple callers, at least one of whom described flames coming out of the building.
While on scene, the department also received calls of an alarm on Frederickson Street and a kitchen fire on Union Street. Wednesday morning the department also responded to a kitchen fire at Mohawk Forest.
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North Adams Fire Leaves Many Homeless
A resident reported smelling smoke in the attic before smoke detectors went off, which gave firefighters enough time to prevent a fully involved fire.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — An early morning fire at 170-172 Bracewell Ave. left about 10 people homeless Wednesday despite being snuffed out quickly, according to the Fire Department.
Firefighters were able to prevent the blaze from expanding throughout the old wooden structure but the residents will be displaced until some minor renovations are completed, Fire Department Lt. John Paciorek said Wednesday afternoon.
"It was good that they were that fast. Another few minutes on a balloon-frame structure makes a big difference," Paciorek said on Wednesday. "It was a great stop on their part."
A resident on the second floor of the building that houses two apartments reported the smell of smoke from the attic at about 3:45 a.m. Upon arrival Lt. Joseph Beverly and the city's group C firefighters used thermal imaging to find a fire between the ceiling of the second floor and the attic, according to Paciorek.
All city firefighters were later called in and had to tear up attic floorboard and break windows to prevent the blaze from expanding. There were no injuries, he said.
"Everybody got out safely," Paciorek said. "Which is great considering the time of night."
The building is structurally sound but there is smoke and water damage that will have to be fixed before residents can move back in, he said.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation but it does not appear to be suspicious, Paciorek said.
An air truck from the Adams Fire Department assisted on the call and an engine from the Clarksburg Fire Department covered the city's station. Firefighters were on scene for about four hours and then a fire watch unit stayed until about 10 a.m. looking for hotspots.
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Williamstown Home Burns After Car Crash
Update: May 17, 2011 at 3:27 p.m.: Police reported Tuesday that Tatro will be charged with operating under the influence of alcohol, his second offense, operating to endanger, marked lanes violation and wanton injury to personal property or to a dwelling house in connection with the crash.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — A car crashed into a Route 7 house late Sunday night and triggered a massive fire, leaving two people homeless.
According to Fire Chief Craig Pedercini, police and fire personnel responded to a call of a car crashing into the house at 780 New Ashford Road at about 10 p.m. Sunday night, and immediately found the vehicle on fire with the driver still inside. The driver was removed in the "nick of time" before the blaze spread to the rest of the structure.
"When the first officer arrived on the scene he found the front end of the car on fire with the driver still in the vehicle," Pedercini said early Monday morning. "We almost had an instant fire here."
According to police, Timothy M. Tatro, 29, of Pittsfield was driving the 2002 Dodge Caravan southbound on New Ashford Road when he failed to negotiate a curve in the roadway. He left the east side of the road, traveled approximately 178 feet and struck the residence.
Tatro was taken to Berkshire Medical Center and may have suffered burns on his legs, Pedercini said. There were two people inside the house when the crash occured; they both escaped unharmed. No firefighters were injured while extinguishing the blaze.
"They were up and I believe just watching television," Pedercini said. "There was fuel from the car that accelerated the fire."
Mutual aid from New Ashford, Hancock, Clarksburg and Pownal, Vt. fire departments were called in. The fire was controlled shortly after midnight; firefighters remained on the scene for a few more hours to extinguish smoldering debris.
"Most of us left at about 4 or 5 and we had some people here to keep watch," Pedercini said. "There was a lot of fire."
The house is outside of the fire district and tankers had to shuttle water to the scene. The house is a total loss.
The people inside the 1,500 square-foot home were renters. The property is listed as owned by John and Sharon Fleury.
Police Chief Kyle Johnson said the accident was still under investigation.
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Fire Destroys Pittsfield Apartment Complex
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A massive fire in an apartment complex on Saturday afternoon left more than 40 people homeless.
The five-alarm blaze was brought under control by Pittsfield firefighters after nearly seven hours and with the aid of at least six county fire companies.
No one was injured but the historic three-story Elmwood Court was heavily damaged.
Chief Robert Czerwinski said crews did an initial sweep of the building to ensure no one was inside. All the tenants had gotten out safely; two are out of town.
"We were having a tough time fighting it," said Czerwinski at around 8 p.m. "We're keeping a crew here over night to make sure it doesn't start back up."
The chief said the fire started in the basement and moved through the attic, helped along by the 160-year-old building's balloon construction.
The department received a call of smoke in the basement at about 12:30 Saturday afternoon. As the large fire moved through the 28 apartments, Pittsfield called surrounding towns for mutual aid.
Adams, Cheshire, Lanesborough, Lenox, Hinsdale and Richmond responded. The state's Fire Services Division also responded to provide support and coordination.
Czerwinski said the investigation "will start in earnest in the morning."
The local Red Cross chapter was helping any of the 45 or so tenants in need of aid.
The original mansion was built by Edward Learned, an industrialist and financier, in 1854 and was later known as one of the Berkshire cottages. It housed Miss Hall's School for the first decade of the last century and then was an inn, before being turned into apartments.
The property is owned by Cavalier S.E. Properties LLC, based in Egremont, which purchased it in 2004 from MP Bartlett Realty Trust for $1.1 million.
Updated and rewritten throughout at 9:12 p.m., May 14, 2011.
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