ADAMS — All but one of the 14 Louison House shelter residents displaced by a late morning fire are being temporarily housed at the Howard Johnson's motel in Williamstown. One person went to stay with friends, said shelter Supervisor Sherry Dunne.

Fire was reported at the 395 Old Columbia St. building at about 11:45 a.m. and about 20 Adams Volunteer Fire Department firefighters responded to the call.

Fire caused little damage to the three-story building but water damage was extensive and caused some ceiling collapse, Dunne said. Lenox Building Inspector Donald Fitzgerald inspected the structure after firefighters cleared the scene at about 12:45 p.m. and declared the building uninhabitable, she said.

"Aleta Moncecchi from the Berkshire Community Action Center was here and they are providing pizza and water for tonight and doughnuts for the morning," Dunne said. "People with the American Red Cross are also here and are at the motel talking with the residents."

Residents were able to return to their rooms and collect medications and personal belongings, Dunne said.

The emotional toll of displacement was evident at the scene as many residents wept as they watched firefighters enter and exit the building. Dunne said she was emotionally upset by the situation.

"I'll probably break down when I get home," she said. "For these folks, this is a safe place, and when something like this happens we have a very supportive community and I think it's a matter of time and getting things together, and we will be back up and running."


Dunne said she did not have a repair cost estimate yet nor a timetable for getting repairs made.

First Assistant Fire Chief John Pansecchi said that the cause of the fire is under investigation. The fire does not appear suspicious at this time, he said. Pansecchi said that town police officers were the first to arrive at the scene.

"They did a great job making sure everyone was out," Pansecchi said.

The Adams Ambulance Service was at the scene and water was made available to residents and firefighters at the scene.

Town Building Inspector Donald Torrico is expected to inspect the building tomorrow, Dunne said.

"This place is extremely important to our community," she said.

Louison House is the only comprehensive services center for the Northern Berkshire homeless population. Services include assisting with budgeting, teaching life skills, providing transitional and permanent housing and other services.

More than 4,000 people have been helped by the organization in its 25 year history.