Pittsfield apartment building fire leaves 24 homeless

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PITTSFIELD — An intense, smokey fire on Sunday night left 24 people homeless— including two young children.

Around 6:40 p.m., Pittsfield firefighters responded to a 911 call of flames shooting through the middle building of the White Terrace apartment complex off North Street next to the Lipton Mart convenience store.

The blaze was visible throughout a good part of the city, according to many eyewitnesses, including Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski.

"When I left my home, I saw smoke from West Housatonic Street," he said.

The fast moving fire that at times enveloped a good part of the second and third floors due, in part, to the way it's built.

"The construction was very difficult to deal with as there were a lot of vacant spaces for the fire to go," said Czerwinski.

Everyone inside the three-story raised building escaped virtually unharmed, but one tenant had to be rescued from a third-floor fire escape, according to Czerwinski. The unidentified person was taken to Berkshire Medical Center for unknown injuries.

City and state fire investigators are jointly probing the cause of the fire.

While one mother and her two children fled the building, they were unable to save their dog who perished in the fire, according to Eric LeFavour, who manages the building for the Culpo family.

"The woman was devastated," he said. "The fire was very scary. [Tenants] who came up to me were shaking."

LeFavour said all 12 units were occupied and all the fire alarms were activated, alerting the residents to flee their apartments.

The American Red Cross and local Salvation Army are helping the displaced tenants fire temporary housing and secure basic needs.

"We took contact information and [on Monday], we'll give vouchers for clothing and food," said Capt. Elliot Higgins of the Pittsfield Salvation Army.

Mayor Linda M. Tyer said the city opened its senior center a few blocks away on North Street to shelter the tenants until they received temporary housing for the night. Tyer praised the fire department for saving the building and those city residents living nearby.

"I'm very proud of the neighbors who came to assist," she said from the fire scene.

Dalton, Hinsdale, Lanesborough and Lenox fire departments helped Pittsfield firefighters battle the blaze that forced police department to summon their own reinforcements.

Early on, a huge crowd estimated at 200 people gathered to watch the fire unfold, requiring more officers to control the crowd as well as secure the fire scene, said Police Chief Michael Wynn.

Reach staff writer Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233


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