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Fire Destroys North Street Home in North Adams

By Tammy Daniels
iBerkshires Staff

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A two-family home at the corner of Cady and North streets went up in flames Saturday morning. 
 
Fire Chief Stephen Meranti said the call came in at 5:12 a.m. for a possible structure fire, which was confirmed by police reaching the scene. Northern Berkshire EMS personnel said they had headed up from the department's headquarters on Harris Street on hearing the call and found the structure fully involved with flames coming through the roof. 
 
It was believed that all occupants had gotten out or were not in the building when the fire consumed the top floor and attic. Meranti said one occupant, who apparently was able to flee safely with her dog, was confirmed safe. There was only one other possible resident authorities were aware of.  
 
"It started on the upper levels and it was through the roof when we got here," Meranti said. "We did a quick search of the lower level and started a defensive operation, then moved to an interior operation."
 
The fire was an all-call with all equipment and firefighters at the scene. Clarksburg Volunteer Fire Department sent its airpack truck and the Department of Public Works sent a truck to sand the steep street to prevent ice buildup as firefighters attacked the blaze with hoses. 
 
By 6:20, the fire was largely out but firefighters were still using hoses and axes on what was left of the second floor and attic to put out smaller fires. 
 
"The roof fell in and kind of buries everything so we have to pull through all of it to find the hot spots," the chief said. 
 
Smoke was still rising from the blackened top floor and the roof was completely gone. 
 
Meranti said the cause was unknown at this point but the fire marshal had been called in to help with the investigation. 
 
"It got into the attic very quickly if it didn't start there," he said. "Before the occupant even knew it, it was well involved."
 
The city's Wire & Alarm had also responded to the scene and National Grid and Berkshire Gas arrived to disconnect the utilities. North Street was blocked off between Williams and Cady streets. The Fire Department cleared the scene at about 9 a.m. but Truck 5 stayed on scene for fire watch.
 
The house sits at 66-68 Cady St. on a rise on the north corner of the intersection with North. The 10-room, 1870 structure is owned by Edward M. Rich, according to documents on file with the assessor's office. 
 
The fire made dramatic early morning dawn for residents on North Street. Nicholas Mantello, the Fire Department's official photographer, said he could see the glow from his home about a block away. City Councilor Keith Bona, who lives a few doors down on North Street, posted about 5:30 a.m. showing flames bursting from the roof and second-floor windows. 
 
Firefighters dealt with temperatures  in the upper teens battling the blaze. 
 
"The guys did a great job. We had to contend with icing on the roadway but the DPW is here to put some sand down, and Northern Berkshire EMS is on scene providing rehab for the firefighters," the chief said. "We had a good team working tonight."

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Pittsfield Man Killed in Train Accident

Staff Reports
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Authorities are investigating the death of a Pittsfield man who was hit and killed by a train late Tuesday afternoon.
 
Rodney Sumner, 54, died in the collision shortly after 4 p.m. Investigators believe Sumner was in the area observing nearby construction and was unable to get out of the path of the eastbound train.
 
According to reports in The Berkshire Eagle, Sumner had apparently been watching the demolition work on the Tel-Electric dam on Mill Street for most of the day. The man was apparently on the tracks above the river between South Church Street and Mill Street when a train came through and was unable to get off in time.  
 
A statement from the Berkshire district attorney's office says investigators did not find evidence of Sumner being distracted or impaired. Pittsfield Police are investigating the death as accidental.
 
According to Amtrak's Twitter alert account, the Lakeshore Limited Train 448 that departed Chicago on Monday was currently east of Pittsfield "due to a trespasser incident." A following tweet stated the train would not continue on to Boston but that alternative transportation would be provided. 
 
The $3.8 million Mill Street dam removal project began last August. The defunct am has been considered a hazard for nearly two decades. 
 
Pittsfield Police, the district attorney's office, and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner responded to the scene. The investigation is ongoing.
 
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Crash in Stockbridge Leaves Wales Man Dead

STOCKBRIDGE, Mass. — The driver of a logging truck was killed Sunday morning after his truck veered off the Massachusetts Turnpike and into a gully.
 
State troopers from the Lee and Westfield barracks responded at about 7:32 a.m. to reports of a logging truck crash on I-90 Westbound at the 5.6 mile-marker in Stockbridge.
 
Upon arrival, troopers located the truck off the left side of the highway, where it had crashed into the gully in the median. The driver was identified as Roger F. Tetreault, 73, of Wales and was determined to be deceased at the scene.
 
The left lane was closed until approximately 2:52 p.m., after the truck was towed and crash reconstruction was complete.
 
The remaining facts and circumstances remain under investigation by troopers assigned Troop B Headquarters, the Commercial Motor Vehicle Enforcement Section, Crime Scene Services Section (CSSS), Collision Analysis Reconstruction Section and the detective unit assigned to Berkshire County district attorney's office and the state Department of Transportation, all of which assisted on scene.
 
No further information is currently available.
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Lanesborough Woman Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A Lanesborough woman pleaded guilty in Berkshire Superior Court on Friday to embezzling nearly $50,000 over a period of two years. 
 
Elizabeth Hakes, 48, admitted to guilt on two counts of larceny over $1,200 by a single scheme related to embezzling funds from Berkshire Works and the Austen Riggs Center.
 
The Berkshire district attorney's office requested 18 months of incarceration and two years of probation following. Defense counsel requested a suspended sentence and two years' probation. The state's sentence guidelines call for up to two years of incarceration.
 
Judge John Agostini sentenced her to two years at the House of Corrections, with one of those years being suspended, and two years of probation following.
 
Hakes managed federal grant funds for job creation programs at Berkshire Works, the regional office of the state's employment board now known as the MassHire Berkshire Career Center. She used approximately $21,000 of that for personal use between May 2016 and August 2017. Hakes then embezzled approximately $26,000 from Austen Riggs Center while working at the Stockbridge psychiatric center between October 2017 and October 2018.
 
"This was an abuse of taxpayer money intended to help residents improve their lives. Those who work in the public sector have the responsibility to use taxpayer's funds to strengthen the community they live in," said District Attorney Andrea Harrington. "Crimes like this undermine the public’s trust in government. My office prosecutes these 'white-collar' crimes with the same vigor as any other type of crime."
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Pittsfield Firefighters Douse Structure, Kitchen Fires Thursday


Firefighters extinguish a structure fire on McArthurStreet. The cause was not known late Thursday.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Firefighters responded to two different blazes on Thursday. No one was injured in either fire but the homes in which they occurred suffered some damage. 
 
The first was at 6:30 a.m. at 73 McArthur St. According to Deputy Chief Daniel Garner, the Fire Department found fire in the attic and roof on arrival. E-5 crew stretched a 1 3/4-inch hand line and attacked main body of fire. E-1 crew stretched a 2-inch backup hose line. E-3 crew provided water supply and searched the building for occupants. Truck-2 ventilated the roof and salvage/overhaul. Fire was contained to the attic and roof of the single-family residence. 
 
The building's two occupants were displaced but able to find assistance and the Red Cross will assist if needed. The roof and attic space sustained severe fire damage and there was moderate water damage throughout the building. The cause is unknown at at this time and the damage estimate is $25,000.
 
The second was an oven fire at 38 Grove St. at around 8 p.m. Engine 2, Engine 3, Truck 2, Engine 5, and Car 2 responded. Upon arrival, Deputy Chief Matthew Noyes said firefighters found light smoke coming from the front door of the 2 1/2-story, wood frame, two-family home. 
 
The occupant of the first-floor apartment stated that there was a fire in the kitchen in the rear of the apartment and that everyone was out of the building. Moderate smoke was found in the kitchen as well as fire underneath and behind the gas-fired range extending onto the cabinets and range hood above.
 
The oven was pulled away from the wall and the fire extinguished with a 20-pound dry chemical extinguisher. Engine 3 went to the basement and found embers smoldering on the sill plate below the oven. This was extinguished with a 2 1/2-gallon water can. The gas supply to the range was shut off in the basement. The electric was also shut off to the first-floor apartment at the master disconnect to that apartment located in the basement.
 
Truck 2 set up positive pressure ventilation and performed overhaul of the wall behind the oven where no fire extension was found. Engine 5 staged for water supply. Car 2 also requested a fire investigator and the Red Cross responded to provide assistance to the occupants of the first-floor apartment who were displaced. The occupant of the second-floor apartment (40 Grove St.) was able to remain as there was still electrical power to the apartment and no apparent hazards. 
 
The building suffered minor fire heat and water damage and the cause is considered accidental.
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