Hinsdale man accused of setting multiple fires in Pittsfield


PITTSFIELD — A Hinsdale man is being held without bail for allegedly setting a series of fires after being thrown out of a party early Tuesday morning.

Jeffrey Benoit, 26, was arrested about 3:40 a.m. after police say he started multiple fires — including in a house, a car and a boat — in the Morningside neighborhood.

City firefighters said they spent about two hours responding to and extinguishing the fires.

Officers were first dispatched to 40 Perrine Ave. about 3 a.m. for a report of a fire, according to Pittsfield police.

Residents told police Benoit was a guest at a small gathering, but he was asked to leave after he became intoxicated and tried to fight with the other guests.

Benoit returned to the apartment shortly after, apologized for his behavior and left again without saying a word, according to court records. He returned again and began knocking at the door, but was not allowed inside.

A few minutes later, the smoke detectors in the hallway of the building began sounding and residents saw "knee-high" flames on the carpeted stairway outside of the apartment.

The flames were stamped out and 911 was called.

The building contains nine apartments with at least 10 occupants living there, according to police.

About 3:13 a.m., police were called about two sets of trash cans on fire at the end of nearby Plunkett Street.

While firefighters were tending to those fires, more flames were spotted about 3:25 a.m. near the south end of Plunkett Street.

Firefighters found a car parked in a Kellogg Street driveway fully engulfed in flames as well as a fishing boat.

The heat from those fires was intense enough to melt a portion of the siding of the nearby house.

There are at least nine people living in that building, according to police.

While police were searching for Benoit, based on the information from the Perrine Avenue fire, they found another fire in a pile of leaves on Kellogg Street.

Shortly after that, state police located and detained Benoit on Fourth Street, about 100 yards from the spot of the Kellogg Street leaf fire.

He was carrying a small, plastic lighter, but he denied it belonged to him, according to police.

Benoit first said he left the party due to an argument, but later said he left because the hosts were going to bed.

Benoit was asked why he was only wearing a T-shirt in 28-degree weather, he said he'd left his sweatshirt at the party and was running to try and keep warm.

Benoit pleaded not guilty in Central Berkshire District Court on Tuesday afternoon to counts of arson of a dwelling house, burning property and burning a motor vehicle.

Judge William Rota ordered Benoit held pending a dangerousness hearing next week to determine whether bail should be set and in what amount.

He is due back in court on Dec. 8.

Contact Bob Dunn at 413-496-6249.


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