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The second floor of the former Berkshire Dance Theater was gutted by fire on Wednesday.
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Torrential rain turns Commercial Street into a river.
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The rain both helped and hampered firefighters' efforts.

Adams Firefighters Douse Blaze in Former Dance Studio

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Firefighters check out the first story of the studio and exterior access to the second floor. 
ADAMS, Mass. — The former Berkshire Dance Theater went up in flames on Wednesday afternoon. 
 
Fire Chief John Pansecchi said he had some idea of where the fire started but did not wish to speculate until the state fire marshal could confirm the cause. 
 
The blaze was contained fairly swiftly but there were a number of hotspots firefighters were still dealing with an hour later.
 
Firefighters were alerted to heavy smoke coming from the roof of the building shortly before 5 p.m. The second floor of the long-vacant structure was fully involved, according to images posted to iBerkshires' Facebook page. 
 
"The first couple of guys got here they pulled a line out. The first few guys that were here really worked their tails off," said Pansecchi, adding he was surprised how short staffed they were at first because of the holiday. 
 
Cheshire and North Adams sent help and Savoy came down to cover the station. Northern Berkshire EMS provided rehab. 
 
Firefighters were working in difficult conditions — hot muggy weather in the 90s and a torrential rainstorm that turned Commercial Street into a river right after the call came in. 
 
"It might have been a little bit of a blessing, it kind of cooled us off a little bit," the chief said. "But the guys who were working and pulling hose, they took a beating."
 
One of the first firefighters on the scene was evaluated by ambulance personnel and released. 
 
Commercial Street was closed between Prospect and Glen streets and the Park Street intersection and traffic detoured for almost two hours.
 
National Grid disconnected electricity to the property and Berkshire Gas was called to ensure no gas was connected.  
 
About 70 National Grid customers were without power from Glen Street south along Bellevue Avenue but it's not clear if this had anything to do with the fire. 
 
The dance studio had been owned by Susan Hakes for years until selling the property in 2007. The property consists of a house at 32 Commercial, also vacant and dilapidated, and the two-story studio in the rear. It sits at the corner of Liberty Street and Commercial. 
 
The fire chief said the fire was mainly on the north side of the studio and did not affect the house. 
 
The town did a tax taking on the property in 2017 and the case is currently in Land Court. 
 
Barbara St. Pierre, longtime friend of Susan Hakes, had tears in eyes as she watched the firefighters and the smoke coming from the property.
 
She had 30 years of good memories there, she said. She'd called Hakes, now living out in Las Vegas, to tell her the sad news. 

Tags: structure fire,   

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United Counseling Service Wins Wellness Award

BENNINGTON, Vt. — United Counseling Service is a winner of the 2024 Vermont Governor's Excellence in Worksite Wellness Gold Level Award, presented by the Vermont Governor's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports in partnership with the Vermont Department of Health. 
 
This award is presented each year to organizations across the state that make employee wellness a priority.
 
The UCS Worksite Wellness Committee engaged staff in several worksite wellness initiatives this year, including a Community Supported Agriculture program in partnership with Full Well Farm in Adams, Mass., chair massages for staff, a potluck soup event for staff, quarterly lunches at rotating office locations, and facilitating ergonomic updates for workspaces following recent ergonomic assessments.
 
"We are honored to receive the Excellence in Worksite Wellness Gold Level Award," said Amy Fela, director of operations and co-chair of the Wellness Committee. "This achievement highlights our ongoing dedication to creating a supportive and healthy work environment."
 
UCS is a private, non-profit community mental health center that has been a part of Bennington County's integrated health-care system since 1958. The organization has been designated as a Center of Excellence by Vermont Care Partners.
 
Learn more about the Department of Health's Worksite Wellness Awards here. Learn more about United Counseling Service here.
 
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