Structure Fire Closes Park Street in Adams; Four Families Homeless
Complete write-thru at 6 p.m.
ADAMS, Mass. — Firefighters from around Northern Berkshire County spent Friday afternoon battling a stubborn structure fire at 72 Park St.
Flames could be seen shooting out from under the roof of the building, which houses Carolyn's Tax Service on the first floor and four apartments on the top two floors, where several young children lived.
It took several dozen firefighters more than an hour to contain the blaze that started in a kitchen on the third floor. Fire Chief Paul Goyette described the smokey blaze as "95 percent contained" about 4 p.m., nearly three hours after it was first reported.
No one was injured in the fire but an Adams firefighter was overcome by heat and taken by ambulance to the hospital.
Park Street was closed to traffic and motorists were detoured at Hoosac and Center streets. Some mutual aid units began leaving about 5:30.
Goyette said the call came in as an alarm activation at about 1:15 p.m. and, when firefighters arrived, they found a fire on a stove on the third floor.
"That fire was extinguished but it appeared to enter the attic through the ductwork," he said.
The building was occupied at the time but Goyette did not know how many people were in the building. Everyone was evacuated from the four apartments, and the building searched. A second search was also done to verify no one was inside. Two cats were removed and treated at the scene with oxygen and a third was found safe after the fire was out.
Heavy smoke roiled from the roof line, occasionally blanketing the town's main street in a smokey haze. Bystanders watched the action from the sidewalks as the street filled with personnel and equipment from seven different departments: Adams, North Adams, Cheshire, Clarksburg, Dalton, Lanesborough and Williamstown. Yellow tape was strung along light posts and signs to keep people out of the way.
The Williamstown and Adams ladder trucks mounted a two-pronged water attack on the roof line and the attic of the three-story building, as flames licked out from the eaves.
North Adams and Adams ambulance services set up a rehab center on the lawn of the Adams Free Library to hydrate and cool firefighters rotated out from the action. State police and sheriff's deputies blocked the street from traffic.
"It took us a good hour to knock the fire down because we had to keep chasing," said Goyette. Above the attic, "we found three layers of attic plus we had to start opening up the roof. It was labor intensive. That was the reasoning for calling in a lot of mutual aid companies to get fresh people here to the staging area."
The temperature hovered around 80 degrees with an infrequent breeze. One firefighter at the base of the ladder truck was overcome by the heat and carefully removed by a swarm of firefighters and emergency medical technicians.
Carolyn and Thomas Chalifoux of Carolyn's Tax Service were on their way to their lake cabin in Vermont went they got the call in Bennington that the building was on fire.
"We turned around and came back," said Thomas Chalifoux, watching from the sidewalk. They were concerned about the computers and files in their offices, but Goyette said firefighters were able to cover everything with tarps.
"Things look good there, it doesn't look like they've lost anything," he said.
Other buildings nearby were emptied as well. Arlene Schneider of the Cutting Edge Salon in the building next door said she didn't know anything was going on until firefighters came in and told she had to evacuate.
Trevor Crombie, who bought the building also known as the Dawson Block in 2004, was at the scene.
A GoFundMe has been set up for one of the families displaced in the blaze. Holly Dix and Mike Burns and their three children were not home at the time but their cat was rescued. Another fundraising page has been set up for Marcus and Heather Moore and their two children.
Firefighters were tossing items out the attic, cutting open the roof and chasing hotspots by 4 p.m. The state fire marshal was being called in to the investigation and the building's occupants were not expected to be able to return. Goyette couldn't say what the damage was at this point. Or when the street would reopen.
"The Fire Department owns Park Street at this point."