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North Adams Apartment Fire Forces Out Five Families

By Tammy Daniels
iBerkshires Staff
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Firefighters on the scene of an apartment fire at Crossey Place on Wednesday afternoon.
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — At least 20 people were forced from their apartments on Wednesday afternoon after a fire broke out in the attic above one of the units.

The report of a fire in one of the rear units in the six-apartment building on Crossey Place came in before 3 p.m. The call came into dispatch from a resident in the apartment who said her walls were warm and "turning black."

"There was a report of the walls turning black and paint bubbling on the walls, said Fire Chief Stephen Meranti. "We did indeed find the wall turning black and the paint bubbling."

An all-call was put out to bring in off-duty firefighters; three engines including the ladder truck were at the scene along with police, North Adams Ambulance Service and Animal Control.

"When we came down the street, smoke was coming out of the eaves all along the whole building, so that's when I initially called for an all-call," said acting Lt. Stefan Lamarre, who arrived with D group. Meranti had already called for A group to get them rolling. "Luckily there wasn't much of a fire load up there so it didn't spread. It could have been a heck of a lot worse."

The attic bay on the long two-story building is open all the way through, which could have led to a much worse fire, Meranti said.

"It appears to be knob and tube wiring in the attic with insulation blown around it," he said, which did not allow for heat from the wires to dissipate, plus a cabinet was on top of that section of the attic floor. "It heated up in the joist space and extended through several bays and dropped down."

The key to containing the fire was the speed at which the first group got in, located it and got a line on it, Meranti said. "It was good work by the guys that initially hit this."

Police Sgt. James Burdick said one of the hydrants near the structure didn't work and would be addressed to the city but everything else went smoothly. No one was injured and River Street was blocked between Houghton and Brown.

"We had people on scene in less than a minute," he said.

Meranti said everyone works together as a team.

The occupants, numbering between 20 and 25, were quickly evacuated from the structure but found themselves standing in the snow in frigid temperatures. Porches Inn opened up its lobby to keep them warm until the Red Cross could arrive and situate them for the night. Building owner Michael Deep also arrived to speak with his tenants. 

The damage appeared to be contained to the back two units, which suffered fire, smoke and water damage. The back units cannot be occupied until the electrical repairs and some structural work is completed. The rest of the apartments escaped damage but the power was shut off.

"They do have an electrician on site and he's going to try to get power so no one loses their Thanksgiving food that's in the freezers," Meranti said. "We're trying to get everything back on so they can get back in for Thanksgiving. That's our goal."

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