St. Joseph's Church fire

Police are looking for two people believed to have set fire to side doors at St. Joseph's Church in Pittsfield this month.

PITTSFIELD — Police are looking for two people who are believed to have set fire to a side doors at St. Joseph's Church this month.

Monsignor Michael Shershanovich said he awoke during the early morning hours of Aug. 4 to a phone call from first responders alerting him to the contained blaze at the church. A Pittsfield Police patrolman had been driving by the North Street parish after 3 a.m. and noticed the glow of fire emanating from the side of the historic building.

Police largely had stamped out the blaze by the time firefighters arrived, said Fire Department Capt. Daniel Aitken, who responded to the scene early that morning.

Firefighters extinguished the fire without much trouble, after it caused about $5,000 damage to the doorway, according to Aitken. 

"We saw a smoldering fire that the Police Department had somewhat stamped out," he said.  

Shershanovich said surveillance cameras captured some of the incident. The footage appeared to show a fire that sparked quickly, and Shershanovich said that when asked by police to identify a potential suspect, he did not recognize the man.

Shershanovich said he is grateful for the quick response of the police officer who spotted the blaze, as well as other first responders.

"It was so fortunate that they were so on the ball," Shershanovich said in the rectory Thursday.  "I'm just grateful to him and the firefighters." 

But, he wonders about the motive, noting the church’s food pantry, the shelter inside the former St. Joseph High School and the other services he provides as part of the church's mission. 

"We pray with folks, we feed folks. Was somebody angry?" he said. "We consider this our mission on North Street, to be present for people." 

Investigators are looking for two possible suspects, according to Lt. Gary Traversa. The incident remains under investigation by the Pittsfield Police Department Detective Bureau.

Amanda Burke can be reached at aburke@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6296.

Cops and Courts Reporter

Amanda Burke is Cops and Courts Reporter for The Berkshire Eagle. An Ithaca, New York native, she previously worked at The Herald News of Fall River and the Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise.