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North Adams Fire Damages Central Avenue Duplex

By Tammy Daniels
iBerkshires Staff

A fire in the walls at 54-56 Central Ave. took time to find and extinguish.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Firefighters spent close to two hours tracking down and extinguishing a stubborn fire within the walls of a Central Avenue duplex on Tuesday afternoon.

The blaze started on the backside of the building, between the first and second floors, and sent smoke pouring from windows and eaves of the circa-1900 home. It was called in around 2 p.m.

"It looks like it started in the wall between the two apartments or around the wall between the two apartments," Fire Director Stephen Meranti said. "It got into the ceiling and it went both ways into both apartments."

Firefighters pulled out windows to vent the building and used a chainsaw to cut through the back wall just above the enclosed entryways in the back of 54-56 Central.

"They had quite a bit of smoke and heat on the second floor," Meranti said. "We didn't discover fire until we got into the back wall on the second floor."

The ceiling structure was open between the two halves of the house and the fire made its way above the kitchens.

Acting Fire Lt. Matt Labonte stood in the charred kitchen at 54 Central explained how the fire started on the 56 Central side and burned its way across the ceiling to the other.

"You can see how hot it was in here. We had to do a forced entry," he said. "We got in and we pulled down this tin ceiling right here. That fire was just engulfed in that room. It burned right in that whole ceiling."

There was a fire stop on the exterior wall that prevented the fire from going up through that wall but Labonte thought the tin ceiling was what allowed the blaze to fester and burn through the floor. The joists were gone and a hole opened above the kitchen; on the other side, the wall was burned through to 56 Central.

Meranti said there wasn't a fire stop on the exterior of 56 and the fire made its way up through the wall into the second floor and the attic.

The stairs to the upper floors were in the front of the house and it was difficult for firefighters to navigate their way with hoses up to the second floor. "It wasn't much fire in the attic but it took us a long time to vent the smoke," Meranti said.

The building incurred water, smoke, fire and structural damage. The cause is still under investigation and a fire watch was expected to go through the night to ensure it did not reignite. The property is listed as owned by George Morse III and is managed by Moresi & Associates, which had staff on hand to survey the damage and seal the building.

Only one side of the building was in use and it was believed the occupant was not in the house when the fire was discovered. Rescuers were able to get in to remove pets and the tenant reportedly took one of the dogs to the veterinarian to be checked out.

Central Avenue was blocked off for most of the afternoon. C shift was called in to cover the station and North Adams Ambulance, local and state police, and Clarksburg Fire Department's Rescue 5 responded to the scene.

A Gofundme has been set up to help the tenant, Juli Taylor and her children, who lost most of their belongings in the fire.

     

North Adams Firefighters Save Home From Garage Fire

By Tammy Daniels
iBerkshires Staff
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A chicken incubator is suspected as the cause of a devastating fire that destroyed a two-car garage and threatened a nearby home on Monday evening. 
 
Firefighters were able to save the home at 1664 South Church St. owned by Paul and Diane Lesure but the garage is a total loss.
 
Acting Fire Lt. Matt Labonte said the garage was fully involved upon arrival. "So we made our intentions on cooling down the house," he said. "The house was on fire on the back side so we made our hose lines to the house so nothing got inside." 
 
The Dutch-style garage had a full second story that had caved in within a half hour or so of the first calls at around 6 p.m. No one was home at the time and the owners came home to find the blaze already going. They were able to get their dog out of the house. 
 
"It first came in as a garage fire in back of McCann School. We got a few calls confirming it on the way here," Fire Director Stephen Meranti said, adding that the focus was on limiting fire damage to the single-family home and then containing the garage blaze. 
 
"He had a lot of equipment in there, motorcycles in there, a lot of stuff," he said. "We had guys working in both directions to keep it from spreading."
 
The blaze melted the vinyl siding off the north side and the back of the home and charring could be seen in the rear exterior. The ground was burned around the garage, which was separate from the house and set slightly back on the north side. All that was left of the garage was a pile of twisted metal and debris. 
 
Loud pops could be heard as canisters of fuel or other materials exploded in the conflagration. The house is on the hillside just north of the Adams line but black smoke could be seen billowing from the blaze from the downtown. 
 
Meranti said the cause has yet to be officially determined but he was leaning toward the incubator lamp because there was no other heat source in the building. It contained a woodstove but that hadn't been used in a while. 
 
The Fire Department ran into some trouble with a hydrant located directly in front of the property. Meranti said there was a pressure issue and the Water Department was looking into it. 
 
Firefighters were planning on a fire watch through the night in case the pile or house reignited. The power was shut off and the family was planning to go elsewhere for the night. North Adams Ambulance Service, Wire & Alarm, National Grid, and police also responded to the scene.
 
There was also a problem with spectators stopping on the road to watch the fire. The road is narrow with little room to pull off and the property was on a hill making access difficult. There was a lot of traffic at the time and those parking along the side made it difficult for the fire trucks to get in. Police shut down that section of road from Wheel Estates to the city line and began turning vehicles around. 
 
"There were a lot of spectators here. We would really appreciate it if they would stay clear of the scene," Meranti said. "We had issues getting apparatus in because there were so many people parking to watch on both sides of the road. ... We need people to stay clear just keep on going."
     

North Adams Businesses Warned of Multiple Break-Ins

Staff Reports

This image of the suspect was taken off a security camera Friday morning. 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Police are warning Main Street business owners about a series of break-ins that have occurred over the past few days. 
 
Moulton's Spectacle Shoppe was broken into sometime Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning through the Main Street door with the burglar making off with cash and checks. About 1 a.m. on Friday, an individual broke into the Registry of Motor Vehicles and Berkshire Photography & Printing in the Berkshire Plaza. Nothing was taken from the RMV but clothing was stolen from Berkshire Printing. 
 
The suspect, described as a tall, thin black man, was wearing a parka with a furred-edge hood when captured by security cameras on Friday morning. He is believed to be using a pry bar to open doors and appears to have attempted entry into other locations. 
 
The incidents are still under investigation and anyone with information is asked to contact North Adams Police at 413-662-3105, Ext. 4210. 
 
In the meantime, police are recommending downtown business owners secure all their doors; make sure surveillance systems are active and time/date stamps are correct and active; lock up valuables; alert police and neighboring businesses if you see something out of the ordinary, such as doors being tampered with.
     

North Adams Police Investigating Shot That Broke Restaurant Window

By Tammy Daniels
iBerkshires Staff
Update, Friday at 5:45 p.m.: Update: Police are continuing the investigation into the firing of a bullet that smashed through a window at Public Eat & Drink restaurant on Thursday afternoon. The bullet traveled through the eatery, which was busy with patrons at the time, and struck a woman eating her lunch. The woman was not seriously injured and did not require treatment.
 
Police Director Michael Cozzaglio wrote in an email on Friday that the shot may have been aimed at a traffic light at the intersection of Holden, Center and Route 2.
 
"It would seem as though someone may have shot at the traffic light, which is in front of the restaurant window," he said. "The shot missed the traffic light and went through the window."
 
However, the shot is still considered to be a random incident that was not directed at any individual or at the restaurant or building. 
 
Anyone with information about the shooting, which occurred at about 2:40 p.m. on Thursday in the vicinity of the artery is asked to contact North Adams Police. The scene was processed by state police investigators from the crime scene and ballistics divisions.
 
"We want to thank the management and staff at Public restaurant for their cooperation through this investigative process," Cozzaglio said.
 
The restaurant was closed Thursday evening but reopened for regular business on Friday.
 

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Police are investigating a shot fired through a window at Public Eat & Drink restaurant on Thursday afternoon. 

 
No one was seriously injured in the incident that was reported about 2:46 p.m.but the restaurant was closed for the evening, according to a sign posted on the door. 
 
Police Director Michael Cozzaglio said the area was being treated as a crime scene and that state police Crime Scene Services and ballistics had been called in to process the scene. 
 
The investigators will try to determine the trajectory of the bullet and where it might have originated. The bullet did graze or touch one of the customers, he said.
 
"A woman had minor injuries to her head, very minor," he said, adding that she had declined treatment. "She was just sitting down having lunch."
 
The shot came through the top of the farthest west of the three windows on the Center Street side of the corner restaurant. Police blocked off the entrance into the parking lot on that side and ran yellow tape to prevent anyone from getting near the side of the building or the public way next to it. 
 
Employees were still in the restaurant and some patrons were exiting the eatery shortly before 5 p.m. 
 
Cozzaglio said police know where the bullet entered the building, where the woman was sitting and where it ended up. What's not known is the origin of the bullet, its path inside the building and whether it might have ricocheted.
 
Police will be checking to see if there are any security cameras that might provide a clue as to what occurred. Cozzaglio said it appears, at least at this point, that it was a random shot and not intentional in regard to the restaurant. 
 
"There's nothing to lead us to believe that there's anything directly related to Public," he said.
     

Steele-Knudslien Arraigned on Murder Charge in Superior Court

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A man accused of killing his wife was arraigned Monday morning in Berkshire Superior Court on a murder charge. 
 
Mark S. Steele-Knudslien, 47, entered a plea of not guilty of one charge of murder in connection with the death of his wife, 42-year-old Christa Leigh Steele-Knudslien.
 
Steele-Knudslien allegedly beat his wife with a hammer and stabbed her on the evening of Jan. 5 in their Veazie Street home in North Adams. Police say they discovered her body, wrapped up in the basement, after her husband entered the Adams Police Station hours later to report the crime.
 
Judge John Agostini ordered Steele-Knudslien continued to be held without bail at the Berkshire County House of Correction. Steele-Knudslien had previously entered a not-guilty plea in Northern Berkshire District Court on Jan. 8.
 
The couple had apparently lived in Adams and, before that, the Springfield area before moving to North Adams last March. They were married in April 2017.
 
The investigation is being conducted by state police detectives assigned to the district attorney's office, members of the North Adams and Adams police departments and the Massachusetts State Police Crime Scene Services Section.
     
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