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North Adams Fire Leaves Many Homeless

Andy McKeever

A resident reported smelling smoke in the attic before smoke detectors went off, which gave firefighters enough time to prevent a fully involved fire.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — An early morning fire at 170-172 Bracewell Ave. left about 10 people homeless Wednesday despite being snuffed out quickly, according to the Fire Department.

Firefighters were able to prevent the blaze from expanding throughout the old wooden structure but the residents will be displaced until some minor renovations are completed, Fire Department Lt. John Paciorek said Wednesday afternoon.

"It was good that they were that fast. Another few minutes on a balloon-frame structure makes a big difference," Paciorek said on Wednesday. "It was a great stop on their part."

A resident on the second floor of the building that houses two apartments reported the smell of smoke from the attic at about 3:45 a.m. Upon arrival Lt. Joseph Beverly and the city's group C firefighters used thermal imaging to find a fire between the ceiling of the second floor and the attic, according to Paciorek.

All city firefighters were later called in and had to tear up attic floorboard and break windows to prevent the blaze from expanding. There were no injuries, he said.

"Everybody got out safely," Paciorek said. "Which is great considering the time of night."

The building is structurally sound but there is smoke and water damage that will have to be fixed before residents can move back in, he said.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation but it does not appear to be suspicious, Paciorek said.

An air truck from the Adams Fire Department assisted on the call and an engine from the Clarksburg Fire Department covered the city's station. Firefighters were on scene for about four hours and then a fire watch unit stayed until about 10 a.m. looking for hotspots.

Tags: fire, structure      

Future of Eagle Street Storefront Unknown After Arrest

Andy McKeever

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — It is unknown what will happen with the Eagle Street Music storefront in the wake of the proprietor's recent arrest.

Matthew D. Berger, who opened the music store last month, was arrested last week on charges of distribution of oxycodone and oxymorphone. The store has been closed since and landlord Eric Rudd said he does not know what will become of it.

"I'm less than happy about the situation. They have a lease and so far have not contacted me," Rudd, who was out of the country when the arrest was made, said in an e-mail Friday.

Berger pleaded not guilty last Tuesday to five charges of distribution of a Class B drug after a Berkshire County Drug Task Force investigation that began last December. He was released on $5,000 cash bail.

Rudd said Berger's father signed a lease for the storefront and on Monday the store was still stocked. The store sold music equipment and accessories and the rear of the space, in the flatirion building, was to be used for private music lessons.

Berger had been on the police radar well before the store's opening. Police said they were tipped off that he was selling prescription drugs, and performed a series of controlled buys as well as watched him at the store. He was arrested inside the shop last Monday.

He also faces possession charges in New York state after New York State troopers said they found a pill grinder and straws containing hydrocodone and oxycodone.

Berger was not available for comment as of Monday.

Tags: Eagle Street, Berger, oxycodone      

Mayor's Wife Arrested for Shoplifting

Staff Reports

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Michelle Alcombright, wife of North Adams Mayor Richard J. Alcombright, was charged with shoplifting two weeks ago in Florida.

Alcombright, 53, was arrested and charged with probable cause of retail theft of more than $300 on Tuesday, March 29, at a shopping plaza in Ruskin, Fla., just outside of Tampa.

According to a report by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, the arrest was made at about 7 p.m. The report doesn't state where the arrest took place other than 3846 Sun City Boulevard, the address of the plaza, which includes a Walmart Supercenter, a Beall's Department Store and a pet supermarket.

She was booked at 10:17 that night and was held until 5 p.m. the next day, when a $2,000 surety bond was posted for her release.

Word of her arrest was posted liberally on the Topix comments section over the weekend and emailed to iBerkshires. Her arrest was one of the top most viewed Sunday on the Tampa page of Whosarrested.com. There had been rumors over the past year of a similar incident at a local Walmart but no facts.

Michelle Alcombright was not at the mayor's re-election launch on Friday and the following reception was hosted by his daughter. We have asked the mayor for a statement.

Update: Mayor Alcombright released this statement on Monday, April 11, 2011, shortly after noon. We are running it in its entirety.

My wife, Michelle, is humiliated, ashamed and hurting deeply, and our entire family is saddened as a result of this recent situation. With that said, we are no different from any other family that struggle with personal issues.

The past two years have been extremely difficult for my wife as she has faced crippling anxiety, severe depression and physical health problems and she is currently in an outpatient program helping her deal with her issues. My interests are embedded in making sure she gets the necessary care to make her well and to become physically and emotionally healthy once again. 

I ask the community to allow us to handle this as it should be handled ... as a personal family matter. I will deal with family and personal issues as would any other husband and father.

I will, as I have done for the past 15 months, continue to fulfill my elected responsibilities as mayor and fully hope to continue as I announced last week, to be in this position for two more years.

This will be my only comment on the situation.

Richard J. Alcombright

 

Tags: shoplifting, Alcombright      

Rollover Closes Mohawk Trail

Staff Reports

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A small car flipped over on the Mohawk Trail just south of the intersections with Daniels and West Shaft roads closing the trail to traffic.

The driver, Danny Briggs, 29, of West Main Street, was out of the car before emergency vehicles arrived. The accident occurred at about 5:30 p.m. and shut down traffic over the trail for about an hour while the car was removed.

Three police vehicles and two firetrucks responded to the scene.

The car was eastbound when it hit the snowbank near the Chief Motel, careened into the westbound lane and flipped. It came to rest on its top about 100 feet from where it hit the bank.

The vehicle sustained heavy damage, including a smashed in rear window. Parts of were scattered on the road along with items from the car. The vehicle was towed by Mohawk Auto.

Briggs was charged with operating under the influence.

Tags: accident, rollover, vehicle      

Cariddi Fire Aftermath

Tammy Daniels

Owner Guy Cariddi, right, was at the scene as  the state fire marshal investigated Thursday's blaze.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — They were still toting up the damage at Cariddi's Auto Sales on Friday but the owner said he isn't leaving.

"We've been here for 29 years and have developed a substantial cumstomer base," said Guy R. Cariddi, standing in front of the scorched building as a state fire marshal inspected the roof. "We aren't going anywhere."

The blaze began in the corner of a bay on the north end of the four-bay structure. Fire Director Stephen Meranti said the fire started in the ceiling area behind the office in a boiler room area.

Light pours through a hole in the building's roof; left, the office window is smashed. The red car was in for service after being bought by someone last week.

"We still haven't narrowed it down yet," he said of the cause. He pointed to the roof of the building, which has gone through a number of conversions since its construction as a car wash by Cariddi's father in the late 1960s. "You can see there are different layers of roof. See the metal ceiling – on top of that is a space and another metal roof and then there's a void space and a regular roof."

That configuration helped the blaze stubbornly burn in the roof, lighting up the sky with deep red flames and smoke. Firefighters had to cut their way through the roof to contain the fire.

Cariddi's son was working on a truck in the nearby bay and fled the building as it filled with smoke. The truck and another used vehicle were damaged beyond repair as were two customer's cars. Cariddi said one had just been purchased; the other bought the week before.

The owners of both vehicles told him they'd wait for him to find them replacements. That loyalty and support has been coming in all day, he said.

"I'm amazed, we've had an outpouring of people come here today offering to do anything they can for us," he said. Among them have been fellow car dealers and property owners offering space — from the old Gateway Chevrolet to West End Auto to Dean's Auto in Adams. "Everybody has just been fantastic."

Cariddi said he will be moving temporarily down to the old Ernie's Auto Sales, across from Ernest Gamache's new building at 400 Curran Highway. Cariddi said he and Gamache have been friends al ong time and he appreciated the offer. Dean's Quality Truck and Auto, owned by Joseph Dean just down the road, offered to let Cariddi's tow trucks plug in there over the weekend until the power can be turned on.

The roof is charred near where the fire started; that bay has been blocked with plywood.

No decision will be made on the building until the building inspector and Cariddi's engineer and architect take a look at it. The building may end up being demolished and a new one put up; Cariddi said they'll take their time and not make any "rash decisions."

The fire also brought out an outpouring of municipal aid from local fire companies, including Adams, Clarksburg and Florida. Stamford, Vt., covered the Clarksburg station and even Savoy offered a helping hand by showing up with nourishment for the cold and wet firefighters.

"The chief came down and brought all kinds of food and stuff for us," said Meranti. "I guess they had a function going on."

Update: Saturday, Jan. 29, 2011: The cause of blaze was a short in 220-volt electrical line feeding into a circuit breaker in the ceiling, according to the North Adams Transcript.

Tags: Fire, Cariddi      
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