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Before city crews arrived, these people stepped up to combat a fire at Springside Park

Site of an encampment fire at Springside Park

The remains of a campsite at Springside Park after it was engulfed in flames Saturday night. The Pittsfield Fire Department responded to the blaze after being alerted by people living in the park, who attempted their own efforts to contain it before authorities arrived.

PITTSFIELD — Homeless people living at Springside Park sprung into action this weekend to contain a fire, as small propane tanks exploded at a nearby encampment, seeking to protect the place they call home while firefighters were en route.

The Pittsfield Fire Department responded to a fire after being alerted by people who camp in the park.

First responders got the call around 6:30 p.m. Saturday night, according to the Pittsfield Police Department log. Deputy Daniel Garner said the fire department sent an on-duty deputy chief and two trucks.

The firefighters were able to extinguish the fire, which burned an area of about 900 square feet within the park, a few hundred yards north of Springside Avenue. The cause of the fire is not yet known.

There were no injuries. The Pittsfield Police Department also responded to the fire. It does not plan to take further action on the fire, according to Captain Gary Traversa.

Jim McGrath, parks, open space and natural resource program manager for the city, visited the site of the blaze on Monday with the park’s superintendent and began making plans for cleanup.

Garner said the department sent a full team in case the fire spread to nearby encampments. The trucks were needed to get water in.


David Rossi and Paul Granger live in the park in a structure of their own nearby. Rossi said the encampment was close enough to keep an eye on the nearby tent, which had been empty for a few months before Saturday night.

For years, people without housing have chosen to live in the city-owned park, their presence regularly prompting debate among elected officials.

Rossi made his way to the campsite to check and found the tent engulfed in flames. He called down to Granger and other people living in the park to call the fire department.

Using a small machete, Rossi began clearing dry brush to prevent the fire from spreading onto trees and tried to smother the flames with dirt, as he waited for firefighters. The fire lasted between 20 and 30 minutes, he said.

Soon, batteries and propane tanks used to fuel campstoves began exploding around the fire, forcing him to back off.

“It was like fireworks,” Rossi said. Rossi said he contended with wind sweeping the fire along. He didn’t want flames to spread throughout the trees, he said.

“I wasn’t worried about my own place so much as I was about this beautiful park,” Rossi said. Rossi said the incident wasn’t representative of the living situation of other residents in the park. The campsite was unsecured, compared to other camps there, he said, and he wanted to know more about the cause of the fire.

“This is just irresponsible,” Rossi said.

Matt Martinez can be reached at mmartinez@berkshireeagle.com.

News Reporter

Matt Martinez is a news reporter at The Berkshire Eagle. He worked at Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, graduated Marquette University. He is a former Report for America corps member.

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