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Firefighters Battle With Difficult Blaze At Cheshire Business

By Tammy Daniels & Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff

CHESHIRE, Mass. — Firefighters battled a difficult blaze that destroyed a Windsor Road business Thursday night.

The Fire Department received a call at 7:21 p.m. of a garage fire as a blizzard swept through the region with frigid temperatures and gusty winds. Upon arrival, the former Kubota dealership was already heavily engulfed in flames.

"Our initial responders reported heavy fire from the garage spreading to the service area. We had a full response. Our first arriving engine went off the road, into a snow bank. Our second engine, when he got here, had electrical issues and lost all electric. We couldn't even flow water," Fire Chief Thomas Francesconi said.

The structure was recently purchased by J. Richardson Contracting. Francesconi said later in the evening that the cause was not yet known but appeared to have begun in the garage area based on initial reports. 

The initial responding officer had called immediately for mutual aid from multiple towns. Adams sent an engine while the Adams Forest Wardens, Savoy and Lanesborough departments sent tankers. Dalton Fire Department also responded.

Cheshire got its engine back in service with help from the Highway Department.

"Fortunately for us, our Highway Department was right on the ball. Our engine went off the side of the road and into the snow and they pulled our engine out," Francesconi said.

The former dealership is about three miles off Route 116, and the wind fueled and blew the blaze from the garage and into the former showroom area.

"If the wind wasn't so bad, it wouldn't have taken over on us so bad," the chief said.

The wind had not only fueled the blaze, but the fire also had a head start on responders. The building is on a infrequently traveled, narrow road, and by the time the department arrived it was "50 percent" involved.

"It is not a heavily traveled road, especially during a storm. You can go 10 minutes without seeing a car so nobody would know there was even a fire," Francesconi said.

One of the town's highway crew was plowing on Wells Road when he heard the call. He immediately headed to the scene and said the walls of the building were already collapsing. 

The firefighters struggled to get enough water to contain the scene. The flames towered high into the air while five tanker trucks were shuttling water from Hoosac Valley High School -- a trip that was taking at least take 20 minutes. Tankers from the three neighboring towns and from Cheshire shuttled water to the scene until the Hoosac Valley hydrants froze over. There are no hydrants in that area of Windsor Road.

When the wind whipped up, it sent billows of smoke, snow and sparks across the snow-covered yard.

Hinsdale Fire sent its rehab bus and North Adams Ambulance provided rehab on site and firefighters were routinely checking in to be safe. It could not put up its large tent because of the wind. Adams Ambulance also responded to the scene.

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