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Barn Filled With Antiques Burns In Williamstown

By Andy McKeever

A two-story barn filled with antiques owned by James Montepare was reduced to a pile of debris by fire Saturday.

 

Blustery winds expanded the fire from the barn to the garage, which also stored antiques.

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — A fire destroyed thousands of dollars worth of antiques Saturday on McLain Court.

A two-story barn, a shed and a garage filled with antiques owned by North Adams Public Schools Superintendent James Montepare burnt to the ground.

For five hours, firefighters from Williamstown and Pownal, Vt. battled gusting winds to snuff out the fully engulfed structure fire. There were no injuries and the cause is still unknown.

"I used these two structures for storage and refurbishing," Montepare, who owns three antique stores, said on Sunday. "I can't say enough about the fire departments and how hard they work."

Montepare said he started a small fire in a woodstove in the barn Saturday morning and shortly after noon he saw smoke billowing out the second story windows.

"I did have a small fire going in the woodstove but I don't know if that was the cause," Montepare said. "I closed [the stove] up and everything seemed to be fine."

The building was already so engulfed that Montepare could not enter the barn but he did remove as much flammable material as he could out of the structures and turned the gas off while firefighters were on their way.

Nobody was in the barn when it ignited; Montepare and his wife, Carole, were inside the house. The blustery winds spread the fire from the barn to the garage and ignited a small brush fire on the hillside behind the buildings.

"It was windy and that was a huge factor," Montepare said. "It started going up the mountain."

Montepare is hoping his homeowner's insurance will cover what he called "a total loss." Montepare did not have an exact dollar amount but said he lost thousands of dollars worth of antiques and tools.

Montepare refurbishes and sells antiques as a hobby and the barn was used for storage and as a workspace. Many of the antiques that were destroyed were expected to stock an expanded Empire Antiques on Main Street. Montepare and Keith Bona, owner of Creations, are planning on expanding the store in the Main Street Stage location to accommodate more of Montepare's merchandise.

Tags: fire, antiques, Montepare      

Car Break-ins Reported in Williamstown

Staff Reports

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Williamstown Police have received five reports of cars being broken into on Candlewood Drive.

Residents reported that electronic equipment and other items were stolen from their vehicles during the overnight of Tuesday and Wednesday, Aug. 31 and Sept. 1. All of the vehicles were unlocked at the time of the thefts.

Police are advising all residents and visitors to remove valuable items from their vehicles and lock their doors. "Although not a regular occurrence, these incidents are not unfamiliar to Williamstown," said Sgt. Scott McGowan.

Locking car doors may serve as a deterrent to a person who would rather not gain attention by smashing a window and creating a loud noise, which would alert a resident.

Any suspicious activities should be reported to the Williamstown Police immediately by calling 413-458-5733 or 911.

Tags: breaks, vehicles, theft      

Lightning Strikes Williamstown Home

Tammy Daniels

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — A single-family residence at 41 John St. was heavily damaged by fire early Saturday morning after a lightning bolt apparently bounced off a nearby pine tree and struck the roof. It was the second time in as many years that the town's suffered a devastating strike.

The renovated attic space of the home, owned by Robert Crosky, was gutted by flames as firefighters battled the blaze for an hour and a half in a downpour before getting it under control.

Chief Craig Pedercini takes pictures of the scene. Right, the tree that was struck is close to the house.

"We made a couple of advances but we were pushed back," said Fire Chief Craig Pedercini early Saturday afternoon, as he stood next a pile of personal items and sopping insulation in the back yard. "We had to take a defensive mode and hit it heavy from the outside."

The difficulty in accessing the third floor was compounded by the home's configuration; lots of hose had to be hauled up stairs and down hallways. On the third try, firefighters were able to get into the area and contain the blaze.

"The guys did a great job — from here, from Pownal, from Clarksburg — as far as I'm concerned," said Pedercini.

The Clarksburg and Pownal, Vt., fire departments were called in for mutual aid, a standard practice for structure fires. The Stamford, Vt., Fire Department covered the Clarksburg station.

The big cracking boom over Williamstown could be heard from Pownal to Clarksburg, waking many from slumber at about 3 a.m.

It woke Pedercini out of a sound sleep. He said all he could think was "I hope that didn't hit anything." But minutes later, the reports came in of a fire at the corner of John and Manning streets, a dense neighborhood. By the time firefighters arrived, flames were coming through the roof.

Crosky was home alone; his wife and two children were out of town. Pedercini said Crosky told him he was wakened by the boom and went into the hallway and saw ceiling plaster on the floor and flames peeking through a hole in the ceiling. He immediately called 911.

Pedercini didn't want to speculate on the cost of the damage, other than to say it would be significant. The third floor's two bedrooms and a bathroom were destroyed, large sections of roof are gone and the downstairs was heavily damaged.

"There was a tremendous amount of water damage and some smoke damage," said Pedercini. "It's going to be a total renovation."

The 80-foot pine outside the front door was scarred by the lightning but didn't appear otherwise damaged, although Pedericini said he's suggested the homeowner have it checked. The family's pet dog and bird also survived the blaze.

Crosky was busy with an insurance adjuster and figuring out what he and his family were going to do next. "I have to find where we're going to live for now."

In August 2008, a bolt of lightning hit the hay barn at Bonnie Lea Farm, burning it to the ground; two horses had been killed lightning there in 2005. A month before that, a strike barely missed a home on Pine Cobble Road, taking out the backyard swing set instead.

"It's devastating. We leave but the homeowner still has to deal with this," said Pedercini. "But you know, the communities ... just come together and offer their assistance."


View Larger Map
At right, the bolt left a large scar nearly three-quarters of the way up the tree.

 

Tags: fire, house, lightning      

Car Hits House Porch in North Adams

Staff Reports

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A Williamstown woman was taken to North Adams Regional Hospital after the car she was driving ran into a porch on West main Street.

Debora A. Harmatz, 50, of Maple Street was westbound at about 2:40 p.m. when her 1996 black Saturn CP left the roadway and rammed into the steps leading up to a porch at 287 West Main St. residence.

A call reporting the crash was made by an employee at the nearby Melissa's Hair & Nail Salon. A nieghbor said he came outside when he heard a loud crash and saw the car.

The Police and Fire departments responded to the scene, as did the North Adams Ambulance. A dog that was in the vehicle reportedly jumped out after the crash and the animal control officer was called.

The Saturn suffered front-end damage and was towed from the scene by Dean's Quality Auto; the wooden steps were demolished and a joist knocked out from the porch, along with other damage. No word if the dog was recovered yet.

Tags: motor vehicle, accident, injuries, property damage      

North Adams Woman Charge With Trafficking

Staff Reports

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A North Adams woman was arraigned Friday morning in Berkshire Superior Court on a drug charge. 

Eden J. Lemaire, 20, of Walnut Street had not-guilty pleas entered on her behalf on single counts of trafficking in Oxycontin and conspiracy to violate drug laws.

She appeared before Judge John A. Agostini, who released her on personal recognizance.

The charges stem from the execution of a search warrant at the Willows Motel in Williamstown on April 2, 2010. The investigation was conducted by members of the Adams, North Adams and Williamstown police departments and state troopers assigned to the district attorney's office, members of the Berkshire County Drug Task Force.

Tags: drugs, trafficking, task force      
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