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Four dogs said to die in fire at Becket house rented by couple that runs Berkshire Poodles

BECKET — A stubborn, smoky fire struck a home in Becket occupied by a family only for weeks, badly damaging the structure and killing four dogs.

The home, at 254 Benton Hill Road, was being rented by Lee and Kaitlyn Kohlenberger, who run Berkshire Poodles.

Officials at the scene said no one was injured. The fire was still being brought under control as evening came on. At 7 p.m., crews were tracking down flames and embers.

Lee Kohlenberger said at the scene that four dogs had died in the fire. He declined to say more. The Kohlenbergers' business had operated formerly on Pittsfield Road in Lenox.

 A neighbor said a “pop, pop, pop, pop” sound could be heard as the fire gained strength.

Kohlenberger couple LEAD PHOTO

Lee and Kaitlyn Kohlenberger at the scene of a fire Friday that gutted a home they rented at 254 Benton Hill Road in Becket. 

, owners of Berkshire Poodle (pictured) in Pittsfield that they had just moved into a month ago at 254 Benton Hill Road in Becket, MA. They did live in Pittsfield and he is a former Pittsfield firefighter. (Photos by Todd Maisel)

“My husband was outside and he comes running in the house and said ‘Call 911.’ The flames were shooting out of the side of the house and then up the chimney,” said Tina Perusse, of 251 Benton Hill Road. “And then all of a sudden we heard ‘pop, pop, pop, pop.’ I don't know. I don't know if they had fireworks or what in there."

heavy smoke

Heavy smoke complicated efforts to fight a fire Friday at 254 Benton Hill Road in Becket.

Perusse said police arrived on the scene soon after the fire. “They tried to round the dogs up and put them in that blue house,” she said, gesturing to an adjacent structure.

Rick Perusse said he first heard his new neighbors' smoke detector going off, then sounds of what might have been windows shattering.

“I saw the huge flames. The whole kitchen was engulfed by the time I noticed it,” he said.

Fire Chief Paul A. Mikaniewicz said the origin of the fire isn’t yet known and the search for the cause could be difficult given the extent of damage to the wood-frame home.

“It will be under investigation for a while,” the chief said. A state fire investigator was on the scene.

The call came around 4:30 p.m. and flames were showing when crews arrived.

A neighbor said the Kohlenbergers had moved in only recently.

The owner of the property came to the fire site, but when approached, declined to be interviewed. Property records show that the owners of the home are Anna and Charles Corcoran of Hartford, Conn. 

The house on the 4-acre property, constructed in 1940, is assessed at $359,800. 

The Kohlenbergers are known for providing poodles as comfort dogs to Berkshire County police departments, including Pittsfield and Dalton.

The Becket Fire Department was joined at the scene by joined by crews from Dalton, Hinsdale and Otis.

Because the road has no hydrants, crews ferried up water from Center Pond, using portable bags to hold the water at the scene.

One dog was said to have run from the scene and was being sought.

Freelance photographer Todd Maisel contributed reporting.

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com and 413-588-8341. Amanda Burke can be reached at aburke@berkshireeagle.com.

Managing editor for innovation

Larry Parnass joined The Eagle in 2016 from the Daily Hampshire Gazette, where he was editor in chief. His freelance work has appeared in the Washington Post, Boston Globe, Hartford Courant, CommonWealth Magazine and with the Reuters news service.

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.

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