Windsor town sign

WINDSOR — If two forecasts hold, Saturday morning is set to bring both snow and flames to East Windsor. 

An abandoned house at Worthington and Old Windsor roads will be intentionally burned by the town to remove a public safety hazard, starting around 9 a.m. Windsor officials have spent years reckoning with the property, whose owner of record is the late Phoebe Mary Sawtelle. Hopes of putting the property into new hands came up short, after the buildings was found to be in bad condition.

The town's Board of Health eventually condemned the property, a two-story wooden house that appears to be sturdy, from the outside, but has been ravaged by interior water damage, according to Select Board Chair Kim Tobin.

"It was surprising to us, because we didn't think it was too bad," Tobin said.

The town's fire department, under the supervision of Chief Scott Eastwood, has been using the structure for training exercises — which will close out with Saturday's burn.

The house is in tax title proceedings in state Land Court and has long been in arrears on tax payments. Eventually, the town expects to auction the lot as the site of a new home, Tobin said. Windsor had to obtain a permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection to burn the dwelling.

Efforts in recent years to reach descendants of the owner provided fruitless, Tobin said, despite repeated mailings. "We got nothing back," she said. 

Along the way, Windsor tried to interest the office of the state attorney general in helping to resolve the issue, through its receivership program for abandoned properties. Tobin said that office declined to get involved. 

According to her obituary, Sawtelle, a mother of eight, had moved to Warrensburg, Missouri. She died April 6, 2019, at the age of 81. Sawtelle had attended schools in both New York and in Dalton. 

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

Investigations editor

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.