Pittsfield Firefighters Battling Stubborn Building Blaze
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Firefighters are battling a stubborn fire in a four-family home on Tyler Street on Thursday afternoon.
Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski said at about 4 p.m. that he expected to be on the scene for at least the next few hours if not all night.
"We've got a very stubborn fire in the attic right now, we're not sure where exactly that fire started," said Czerwinski, an hour or so after the call came in. "It looks like it may have been rolling on the front porch when we arrived and extended up into the attic."
Crews were moving a second aerial truck into the back yard to bring more water to bear on the structure because the truck in the front was having difficulty targeting the area under the dormers where the fire was hottest because of the angle. The area around the dark blue two-story building was filled with smoke and flames could be seen licking from the roofline.
"The building's very unstable, the roof is collapsed. There's a lot of water weight on the floors due to the amount of water we've been putting in there, so were afraid to send people in at this point," the chief said. "We're going to try to continue to knock that down with the aerial devices, defensive operations before we send in a crew to see if there's any more hotspots and everything."
Tyler Street is currently blocked off between at least Plunkett and Parker streets. There are at least seven people who have been forced from their home and the Red Cross and other resources have been notified to assist them.
"We believe everybody is out. We were told everybody was out," the chief said.
Fire crews from Dalton, Lanesborough and Lenox were called in for mutual aid and Hinsdale Fire Department is sending its rehab truck to provide relief for firefighters at the scene.
The building at 662 Tyler St. is owned by Ronald Marcella Jr. and across the street from the former St. Mary's Church.
"When our first crews arrived ... Engine 1 from out on Dalton Avenue said from Dunkin' Donuts he had heavy smoke showing and then he pulled up, he said, and had fire blowing across all the front porches," Czerwinski said. "We're just at a standstill right now because we can't make an interior access to that attic."
Firefighter ran into trouble when the two nearest fire hydrants they tried to hook into were turned off. Police officers, emergency medical technicians and civilians grabbed hoses and ran down the street with firefighters to the next hydrant 500 feet away.
A new 8-inch water line is being installed to service St. Mary's, which is being renovated into housing. Part of the project included replacing an older hydrant and installing a new one — but both were off at the time because they were being pressure-treated for leaks. The Fire Department is supposed to be notified when a hydrant is out of the service, but that apparently didn't happen.
"We're not sure if the Water Department shut that hydrant down, or if a contractor maybe had shut that hydrant down," the chief said. "But we were not made aware of that. Every morning, we're given a report, a list of what hydrants are out of service and that hydrant didn't come up. Our guys hit it and there was no water — it was empty."
The Water Department arrived on scene later and turned the water back on to those hydrants.
Czerwinski wasn't sure if the proximity of the hydrant was a factor in fighting the blaze because he wasn't on the scene at the time.
"It depends on what the guys found and how much fire they had," the chief said. "They did get another hydrant from the other direction. So they had a water supply relatively quickly. ...
"But it's better if we know if the hydrant is working or it's not working."
The Fire Department runs into water issues frequently, though usually because of frozen hydrants in the winter, Czerwinski said. But crews responded quickly and at least 18 firefighters were there and facing heavy fire on the outside on arrival.
"We don't have any idea on how this may have started yet," he said. "We have investigators here waiting to get into the building to see what they can find out about it."
Pittsfield Firefighters Snuff Back-to-Back House Fires
A police officer talks with children at the Wahconah Street fire.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Firefighters quickly snuffed out two back-to-back minor fires on Wednesday night -- but they were serious enough displace a dozen people.
The first was a dryer fire on South Onota Street that displaced two families, a total of eight people.
"It looked like it was just overheated," said Deputy Chief Tom Sammons. "Now again, that got out of the dryer and started a little bit of the surroundings on fire. ... So we pulled an inch and three-quarter line there, knock down the fire that was coming out of the dryer, removed the dryer from the structure. And that house was full of smoke."
Firefighters were back at the station with enough time "to eat a salad" when a call came in for excess smoke from a chimney at 252 Wahconah St.
"Engine Five arrived on scene and noticed that there was a lot more smoke than smoke in a chimney," Sammons said. Two additional engines and a truck company and Sammons were called to the scene. "And once I saw the column of smoke, I requested a fourth engine. ...
"Once they saw that it was there was smoke on the edges of the windows, they switched tactics and went to an aggressive attack."
The fire was on the first floor in the rear one-story section of the building. There are three apartments total in the building but there was only one individual at home at the time, in the front apartment.
"We got in and searched the entire building twice," he said. "We did find somebody in the front who didn't know that there was an emergency."
Sammons wasn't sure how many people lived in the building believed it to be at least three to five. The Red Cross was notified.
The deputy chief said he was waiting for the building and electrical inspectors and Health Department to assess the structure. There is fire damage to the rear of the building and smoke damage through out. The cause is not yet clear.
He complimented the efforts of the firefighters in knocking down both blazes very quickly.
"They did an aggressive knock down and great job," he said. "They're safe. They're aggressive. And they take care of business."
No one was injured was in the fires but Sammons said both had something in common that was disturbing.
"This is the second fire today and both houses we're at were missing smoke detectors," he said at the scene of the Wahconah fire. "That's a that's a big concern for us."
Pedestrian Pinned Under Pickup Truck at Third Thursday
Firefighters were able to extricate the victim from under the vehicle.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A Third Thursday-goer was run over and pinned beneath a vendor's pickup truck on Thursday.
Police said the details of exactly what unfolded are still under investigation but 75-year-old Neil Atlas of Lenox was taken to Berkshire Medical Center with "serious but not life-threatening injuries."
The truck was driven by a juvenile, police said, who is not being named. The vehicle is registered to the Northeast Old Fashion Soda Co.
"The vehicle is a Third Thursday vendor vehicle. The vehicle was being used for the set up for one of the vendor displays. The business owner directed his assistant to move the truck to get it out of the way. We don't know what happened with the operator but a pedestrian was struck, the operator panicked a little bit," Police Chief Michael Wynn said.
Wynn said the soda vendor was hanging signs and then was moving the vehicle off the street. The truck was "rolling forward," according to police, when it struck Atlas.
The Fire Department arrived on the scene near the intersection of Depot Street, jacked the Ford F350 into the air, and removed the victim from underneath.
"Our officers stayed with them to keep them calm until the Fire Department got here and they did the extraction," Wynn said.
The chief did say the driver remained on scene, though some people at Third Thursday claimed otherwise.
"The driver did not flee," Wynn said.
The incident occurred around 5 p.m. as the city's first block party of the year was about to begin. It posed an issue in getting vehicles to and from the scene on North Street. However, it also provided for a quick response to secure the scene with extra police officers at the event.
"We had a foot patrol officer with no equipment who was here practically right away. But we had difficulty getting the fire vehicles and the rest of our equipment here," Wynn said.
The incident does shed light on an issue the Police Department has noticed in the past of the conflicts between vendors setting up with vehicles on North Street until the very last moment.
"It is fairly common for vehicles to be setting up — it is one of the issues we've identified. They keep setting up right until we do the road closure and then they move off the block as we do the road closure," Wynn said.
Third Thursday is in its 13th year as a summer-long monthly street fair. May is the first fair of the summer. The event continued on despite the incident.
Great Barrington Police Respond to Fatal Hunting Incident
Update at 6:30 p.m. with identification and quote:
GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — A 44-year-old Pittsfield man was killed on Saturday during what police say was a hunting accident.
Christopher Puntin had been participating in a youth turkey hunt with two other adults and a juvenile.
According to Chief William Walsh, Police Officers Jonathan Finnerty and Kristopher Balestro, firefighter and EMTs responded about noon to a report of a hunting incident in a wooded area on Monument Valley Road and located the victim.
Puntin sustained a fatal gunshot wound and was pronounced dead at the scene. No one else was injured.
An initial police investigation suggests the incident was an accident.
"This is a tragic situation for all involved," Chief William Walsh said. "I'd like to commend the efforts of all responders under the command of Sgt. Adam Carlotto and Sgt. Paul Storti on a very difficult call."
Walsh also praised the assistance police received Saturday from the Fire Department and the Southern Berkshire Ambulance Squad Saturday.
This incident remains under investigation by the Massachusetts Environmental Police and State Police detectives assigned to the Berkshire District Attorney's Office and Great Barrington Police.
Pittsfield Man Charged in Fatal Pedestrian Accident
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A Pittsfield man is facing charges related to a fatal pedestrian accident on Dalton Avenue on March 31.
Robert Johnson, 51, has been charged with leaving the scene of a personal injury/death accident, Pittsfield Police said in a release on Wednesday. Police said Johnson has been fully cooperative with the ongoing investigation.
Christopher Reynolds, 32, of Pittsfield was killed in the accident. Witnesses told police that a vehicle traveling eastbound struck Reynolds around 1:30 a.m., who was sitting down in the eastbound travel lane of Dalton Avenue, just east of Plastics Avenue, and continued traveling eastbound after impact.
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