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Pittsfield Couple Dies In Early Morning Fire

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff
image description
The home caught fire at about 4 a.m.

The home caught fire shortly before 4 a.m.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — An elderly couple died in an early morning fire on Bryan Street Thursday.
 
Shortly before 4 a.m., an electrical cord short-circuited and set the home at 71 Bryan St. on fire. The three occupants — the couple and their daughter — woke up to heavy smoke on the first floor. The daughter, described as being in her early 30s, escaped the blaze and ran to a neighbors house to call for help. 
 
"She woke up to smoke. She came down the stairs, saw her father, her father told her to get out of the house. She launched herself out of a window, just a short window off of the back deck, she landed on the deck. Our guys got in, they were talking to him, and when they pulled him out he was still breathing," Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski said.
 
Firefighters arrived at about 3:55 a.m. and immediately launched an interior search for the couple. The man was pulled out of the building and transported to Berkshire Medical Center, where he later died because of injuries suffered during the fire. Firefighters went back in and got the woman, but she had already died.
 
"We knew we were going into a bad situation, to begin with," Czerwinski said, adding that dispatch had alerted the crews to the entrapment immediately. "On arrival, we had heavy fire showing. The deputy was notified that two people were still inside the residence. That was our first plan of action, to get those people out of there."
 
"Entry crews made their way into the building with thermal imaging cameras looking for the two victims. They located the male victim and brought him out of the building. He was transported to Berkshire Medical Center, where he later succumbed to his injuries. They went back in and found the female victim, brought her out, and unfortunately she was passed away."
 
There are also a number of pets still unaccounted for. Czerwinski said pathways to the exits were clear but the couple, in their 70s, did have handicapped plates and there was a walker found at the scene — though he isn't sure if the walker was for the man or the woman — which could have hindered an escape.
 
The younger woman was treated and released from Berkshire Medical Center and one firefighter strained his back while pulling the victims from the structure. 
 
"First responders, we take this to heart. We take it personally that we can't get in there and get these people out," Czerwinski said.
 
A critical incident stress debriefing team is en route to help the firefighters in the wake of the tragedy. The firefighters had delayed water to the structure in order to perform the rescues.
 
Czerwinski said his department, the state fire marshal and police are all confident that the cause of the fire was the electrical cord. He said it was powering an air conditioner and was plugged into a power strip, which in turn was plugged into an old outlet. 
 
"We believe the cause of the fire to be an electric cord on the first floor, which short-circuited and caught the building on fire. We are unsure if there were working smoke detectors inside the building. We do know there was one working in the basement but we did not hear any on the upper floors," Czerwinski said. 
 
"It was an accumulation of challenges we had — no working smoke detectors, extension cords, electrical fires — and we, unfortunately, lost a couple of lives."
 
The building was "totally destroyed" and the chief expects that it would eventually be razed.
 
Czerwinski stressed the importance of fire prevention, reminding residents to replace fire detectors and avoid potential hazards.
 
"This may not have been averted but it was certainly an opportunity for this challenge not to present itself," Czerwinski said.
 
The names of the victims are not currently being released. According to land records, the home is owned by Raymond and Beverly Kinsella.
 
The last fatal fire in the city was in December 2016, when the same fire crew pulled 72-year-old Herdy Iroth from an apartment above Tahiti Takeout. Iroth later died because of injuries suffered during the blaze.

 

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