Couple displaced, cat killed in Pittsfield fire

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PITTSFIELD — A Highland Avenue couple was displaced and one cat was killed Friday afternoon when fire tore through their single-family home.

Just before 3:30 p.m., firefighters responded to 275 Highland Ave. "What we saw was a very heavily involved house fire," Deputy Fire Chief Daniel Garner said.

"It's not typical for that time of day to have that amount of fire showing on a house."

The man and woman who lived at the home were uninjured, and firefighters were able to save two of the couple's three cats, he said.

"We actually heard one crying," Garner said about the cats. "Cats are survivors; for the most part, they're great. Dogs tend to run in closets and under beds and stay there. I'm amazed that the two cats survived."

Garner said the Fire Department was at a disadvantage Friday because one fire engine had mechanical issues and the first on-scene crew was in a pickup truck.

An hour after they arrived, another fire broke out — in a bedroom on Fredericks Street, requiring a response, Garner said.

"It was one of those perfect storms," Garner said. "It's few and far between that we get two structure fires in a week, never mind a day."

The Highland Avenue fire started outside the home, and the cause is under investigation by fire inspectors and the Pittsfield Police detective bureau, he said.

The State Fire Marshal's Office was notified but didn't respond to the scene, Garner said.

Garner said he doesn't like to use the word "suspicious" to assess fires, but said that it was unusual that a fire would be so fully involved in the middle of the day.

"There was high volume of fire for that time of day," he said. "In my 20 years of experience, it struck me as odd."

Garner said the quickly-spreading blaze could have been the product of wood, chlorine tablets and other chemicals that the couple had been storing on the side of the home where it started.

It took firefighters about an hour to get the blaze under control, and was extinguished within two hours, Garner said.

"I would just like to commend all the firefighters working; we were down one fire engine, and I can't stress to you enough how challenging it was to be down one fire engine," Garner said, also extending his appreciation for mutual aid from other departments.

The couple was staying with friends for the night and will be assisted by the American Red Cross, he said.

It is up to their insurance company whether the home is a total loss or will need extensive repairs, according to Garner.

The home is owned by Melissa Soldato and is valued at $157,900, according to city assessor's records.

Haven Orecchio-Egresitz can be reached at horecchio@berkshireeagle.com, @HavenEagle on Twitter and 413-770-6977.

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