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North Adams Mayor Thomas Bernard, State Fire Marshall Peter Ostroskey, Williamstown Fire Chief Craig Pedercini, MEMA Deputy Director Pat Carnevale and State Fire Warden David Celino held a press conference at the Command Center set up at the North Adams Water Department.

East Mountain Wildland Fire 60 Percent Contained

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The East Mountain wildland fire, which is the largest in the state so far this year, is at 60 percent containment.
 
The fire started Friday night off Henderson Road in Williamstown and moved into Clarksburg State Forest. More than 120 firefighters from 19 different communities have been on scene through the weekend working to control the fire that has burned about 800 acres.
 
"We are really hoping to knock this thing down to a point where we can spend some time walking the perimeter and making sure everything is ok," Williamstown Fire Chief Craig Pedercini, the incident commander, said early Monday afternoon.
 
Pedercini was joined by State Fire Warden David Celino and North Adams Mayor Thomas Bernard at the North Adams Water Department to give an update on the smoky blaze that's burned for four days.
 
"It is a difficult labor-intensive effort to contain this fire and it is the 70s, right now, so it's warm," Pedercini said.
 
Pedercini said one firefighter was hospitalized over the weekend but is doing well and that no structures are  currently in danger.
 
"The atmospheric conditions so far have been helpful and there are no major threats to any of the nearby populations," he said. 
 
The National Guard and State Police are conducting air operations including water drops to help contain the mountainside fire.
 
The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Massachusetts Avenue between Protection and Ashton Avenue is still closed to through traffic and hikers are asked to avoid the Appalachian Trail for the time being.
 
State Fire Warden David Celino said dry leaves and other materials are acting as surface fuels that strengthen the fire. He said firefighters are clearing this material around the fire so that it falls back on itself and extinguishes.
 
"We remove the surface fuel, that is what is fueling the fire," he said. "We move an 18- to 24-inch path. Once we do that the fire moves back into itself."
 
He said this year there have been 591 fires throughout the state but this is the largest one this year and probably the largest one in 12 years. Although a surprising number, he said this was not uncommon.
 
"It wasn't long ago if you go back a couple of generations, where it was common to see a 2,000-acre fire here in the state," he said.
 
Pedercini said he expects the 60 percent containment number to change as the day goes on, however, did not want to venture a guess what this shift would be or when it would be.
 
"We have to look and see what we have and we will come up with a number," he said. "I do expect it to change … we are going to change for the good."
 
Pedercini said the fire will likely continue to smolder for several days after it is extinguished.
 
Another update is expected this afternoon.

Tags: forest fire,   state fire marshal,   

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Governor Pushing for Two-Month Sales Tax Holiday

BOSTON — The governor is proposing a two-month-long sales tax holiday this year as a way to support local economies and that would put an estimated $900 million back into residents' pockets. 
 
A sales tax holiday is already on the books for Aug. 14-16, a weekend of tax relief in August that's now a law in the state at this point. The Baker-Polito administration filed legislation on Wednesday to expand the sales tax holiday to the entire months of August and September.
 
"A two-month sales tax holiday will provide a boost to Massachusetts' taxpayers and Main Street economies as we continue to recover from COVID-19," said Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday in a statement. "Massachusetts' economic recovery is off to a good start, but it's crucial that the commonwealth takes action now to spur more economic activity in communities and support taxpayers. Thanks to stronger than expected tax revenues, the commonwealth has managed to grow the rainy day fund to a balance higher than it was at the beginning of the pandemic, and we can also afford to return these tax dollars to our residents and small businesses."
 
State tax revenues for fiscal 2021, he said, continues to "significantly exceed projections." Sales tax revenues to date are 14.9 percent above benchmark and revenues across the board means the state is poised to end the fiscal year with a significant surplus.
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