GREAT BARRINGTON — A teenager will face charges in connection with a fire last weekend at the vacant Searles School, officials said Wednesday.
The suspect, who is not being identified because he is under 17, will be summonsed to appear in Berkshire County Juvenile Court at a later date, according to a joint statement released by the state fire marshal, and town police and fire chiefs.
“Every fire has the potential to hurt someone,” said Fire Chief Charles Burger in the statement. “We’re fortunate that this particular incident didn’t grow larger and put the community or the firefighters who serve them at risk.”
The fire was reported about 5 p.m. Sunday when someone noticed smoke coming from the second floor of the building at 79 Bridge St. Firefighters discovered combustible materials burning in a single room with concrete walls and flooring and quickly extinguished the fire.
A joint investigation by the fire and police departments and the state police Fire & Explosion Investigation Unit assigned to the fire marshal’s office determined that a piece of furniture had been set on fire, the statement said. The suspect was identified based on observations at the scene, witness interviews and other evidence.
The school has been closed since 2006, but was targeted for development into an 88-room hotel as recently as 2019. It was originally built in 1898.
Juvenile firesetting contributes to dozens of fires each year in Massachusetts, about half of which are started using smoking materials such as matches and lighters, the statement said. The officials urged parents to keep those materials away from children.
For more information about youth firesetting, visit nofires.net.