Pittsfield officials hope to get closer look at damage to burned garage


PITTSFIELD -- City officials could have a better handle Tuesday on the extent of damage to Pittsfield's Department of Public Works garage, which burned in a fire Monday morning, Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi said on Monday.

Materials that were too close to the building's heating system caught fire, which quickly spread to the second-floor storage area, causing structural damage to the two-story building.

The garage is at 232 West Housatonic St.

No one was in the brick building when the two-alarm fire broke out at 8:49 a.m., according to the Pittsfield Fire Department. But Highway Superintendent Peter Bruneau said some city workers had been placing Christmas decorations in the storage area about 30 minutes before the blaze began.

A city firefighter belonging to the first engine company that arrived on the scene was taken to Berkshire Medical Center for treatment of burns to his ear and neck. He was treated and released, Deputy Fire Chief Michael Polidoro said.

The blaze started when "combustible materials" stored too close to heating elements inside caught fire, Polidoro said. The building is owned by the city of Pittsfield.

According to Bruneau, about 2,000 plastic city recycling bins were stored in the area where the fire broke out, along with the city of Pittsfield's Christmas decorations, Police Department signs, snow plows and old pieces of equipment. All those items were damaged. City engineers had recently relegated that area of the building to storage because it could no longer hold heavy equipment.

The second floor took heavy fire damage, while structural damage occurred in the roof and ceiling.

Polidoro estimated the damage at more than $100,000.

Several city vehicles had been parked on the ground level inside the garage. But Highway Department personnel moved them to safety.

"A couple of my employees, when the fire was first starting to ramp up, took the trucks and put them out in the back, thank God," Bruneau said.

Firefighters quickly brought the blaze under control, but spent several more hours at the scene checking for hot spots because the fire had spread into the roof.

All on-duty firefighters, including three engine companies and a ladder truck, responded. Off-duty personnel were called back to duty and manned the reserve equipment. The Pittsfield Fire Department also received assistance from fire companies in Dalton and Lenox.

"The guys took a beating on this one," Polidoro said. "But they did a good job."

"We ended up rotating crews out of there," he added. "The first crew really busted their humps."

Bruneau, who has worked for the city Highway Department for 40 years, was visibly shaken by the blaze. At one point he held back tears while speaking with a reporter.

"It kind of got to me," he said. "It's shaken me up."

Mayor Bianchi was also at the scene.

"I'm just thankful that we didn't have anyone inside," Bianchi said. "You can always replace a building, but you can't replace a person or a fireman. It looks like this old building has seen its last days."

Bianchi said he didn't know where the items that had been stored in the garage would be moved.

"I have no idea at this point," he said, "but not back in this building."

To reach Tony Dobrowolski:
or (413) 496-6224.


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