As J.B. Paper Co. warehouse is torn down, state Fire Marshal asks public for clues
PITTSFIELD — A single smokestack standing among piles of brick, charred timber and twisted metal is all that remains of the former J.B. Paper Co., which was destroyed by a set fire on Monday night.
A local contractor on Wednesday used a large excavator to level what was left of the decades-old building at 70 Elmvale Place except for the industrial chimney.
Meanwhile, state and local authorities need help in finding out what started the inferno that consumed most of the old warehouse before dozens of firefighters brought it under control by midnight on Monday.
"The investigative team is asking anyone with information about the fire to come forward confidentially," state Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey said in a statement late Wednesday afternoon. "The cause of the fire remains undetermined and we are looking for information on how the fire started, whether it was accidental or intentional."
Ostroskey urged anyone with information about the fire to call the Pittsfield Detective Bureau at 413-448-9705, or the toll-free Arson Hotline at 1-800-682-9229. He noted calling the hotline doesn't mean the fire has been labeled arson.
State and city fire and police investigators are collaborating on examining the physical evidence and following up on eyewitness accounts of the blaze.
On Tuesday, city fire officials said the preliminary indication was someone accidentally or deliberately started the blaze that collapsed the roof as the Pittsfield Fire Department arrived shortly after 8 p.m. Monday. The flames consumed most of the building before dozens of firefighters from the city and surrounding communities could bring the fire under control.
Exhausted Pittsfield firefighters continued to pump water on the smoldering rubble on Tuesday, with hot spots flaring up again early Wednesday morning
"We went out as soon as the shift change at 7:30 a.m. and stayed until about 9 a.m.," said Pittsfield Deputy Fire Chief Mark Cancilla.
Since the factory had been abandoned for years, officials have said it was a fire waiting to happen. Several people who live and work in the area off Wahconah Street near the Pittsfield Cemetery have told The Eagle the building, somewhat hidden from view, was a haven for squatters. Fire investigators are unsure if anyone illegally bedded down in the old factory may be responsible for igniting the blaze.
The Pittsfield Assessor's Office lists the property owner as BBM Realty Co. and Gerald Binder of New Jersey.
Prior to becoming a paper manufacturer, the building was home to the Elmvale Worsted Mill.
Contact Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233
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