Wonderful Things Great Barrington

A fire broke out Wednesday at a multifamily building on Stockbridge Road in Great Barrington that formerly housed the Wonderful Things gift shop.

GREAT BARRINGTON — Health officials Thursday condemned a Stockbridge Road building with a history of unsafe living conditions that were worsened by a fire this week, and the property owners told them they are selling to a buyer who plans to demolish it.

At its regular meeting the Board of Health voted unanimously to condemn the multi-unit building that once housed the store, Wonderful Things, on its lower level, and four units upstairs. Town Health Agent Rebecca Jurczyk had recommended the board condemn it after learning from fire officials that damage from a blaze Wednesday night rendered the building even more uninhabitable, and that the cockroach infestation persisted.

She said she had confirmed that the previous tenants had been housed somewhere else and that the building hasn’t been occupied, as of three weeks ago.

“It wasn’t safe to occupy three weeks ago and I think it’s even more so now,” she said, noting the active complaint in housing court against owners Deb and Harry Sano.

Deb Sano told the board that the tenants vacated on May 1, and that they are under contract to sell the property. The new owner is buying it with the intent to demolish it, she added. “We were selling it as it is, with the understanding that it’s too old, there was too much to be done to it, that it needed to be demolished,” she said.

Sano also said the couple had tried adhere to the board’s correction orders, but “it wasn’t enough,” and that their tenants formed “a community, and all the years that we’ve had those boys in there, we never made a penny off of them. All they did was to pay for the expenses of the building.”

The cause of the fire Wednesday night is under investigation by town police and fire officials, and by the State Fire Marshal.

Health officials have monitored the building since 2017, when a busted furnace flooded the building with carbon monoxide gas and sent five of the 14 tenants to the hospital. Firefighters said the building did not have working smoke or CO2 detectors.

The Health Department’s issued more correction orders last year for violations ranging from leaks to the cockroach infestation. A number of these had been corrected in April, but officials have continued to battle the owners in court to get compliance.

Heather Bellow can be reached at hbellow@berkshireeagle.com or 413-329-6871. On Twitter @BE_hbellow.