11 people displaced after fire guts North Adams dwelling

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NORTH ADAMS — Nearly a dozen people were displaced Tuesday after fire destroyed a Houghton Street apartment building.

The multi-unit home appears to be a total loss. No one was injured.

The fire started shortly before 1 p.m. at 246-248 Houghton St., and within 20 minutes heavy flames and smoke were coming from the top of the three-story home. Smoke filled the sky over North Adams, just a few blocks from Mass MoCA, well after 2 p.m.

Eleven residents of the building are seeking other accommodations, including John Packard and his wife, Lois. The couple was alerted to the fire when an upstairs neighbor told them to evacuate. So they grabbed their dog Rascal and fled the building with nothing but the clothes they were wearing.

Their son, John Packard Jr., said they had been burned out of their last residence on Beaver Street during a another intense fire in the early 1990s. They have lived in the Houghton Street apartment since then.

Packard Jr. said all the Christmas presents he bought for them — along with everything else they own — were lost to the fire, and now they're left with nothing.

"I'm going to have to put them up in my place for now," he said.

According to city assessor records, the three-story building dates back to about 1870 and contains six units and 10 bedrooms. It is listed as being owned by Charles Russell "Rusty" Ransford, who died at the age of 77 in October. His son, Randy Ransford, who now operates the property management business, said he is relieved that none of his tenants were injured.

"My big concern is that nobody got hurt," he said at the scene. "I'll be working with the tenants to see what we can do to help them out."

He said he has some vacancies he might be able to offer to some of the dislocated residents.

Once the fire department clears the property, Ransford said he'll clean up the debris and secure the building.

"It's a huge financial loss for us," he said of the structure, which has been owned by the Ransfords for more than 20 years. "We put a lot of money into it over the years. It was a good building with good tenants."

Ransford said five families — a total of 11 people and two dogs — lived in the building.

Several different fire departments help put out the large blaze, including North Adams and Williamstown. A cause has not been determined.

A representative of the Red Cross was on the scene to arrange temporary accommodations for those displaced by the fire.Scott Stafford can be reached at sstafford@berkshireeagle.com or 413-629-4517.


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