Couple killed in overnight Pittsfield house fire 'were really great neighbors'

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PITTSFIELD — A couple who died overnight in a house fire were remembered by friends Thursday as good neighbors, always looking to lend a helping hand. 

Raymond and Beverly Kinsella, who were in their 70s, died from injuries suffered in the fire at their 71 Bryan St. home. Their daughter, Karyn, escaped through a window and suffered minor burns, according to Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski.

The fire started just before 4 a.m., on the first floor of the two-story home. Authorities suspect that an electrical cord short-circuited, sparking the blaze. 

"I'm getting chills just thinking about it," said Paul Mays, who lives down the street from the Kinsellas. "They were really great neighbors."

A team of 18 Pittsfield firefighters responded. The family was asleep when the fire broke out. By the time they awoke, the home was engulfed in flames. Raymond Kinsella yelled to his daughter to get out of the house, Czerwinski said. 

"She was the one who had to run to her neighbors' house to alert them to call 911," Czerwinski said at a news conference Thursday morning. "We knew we were going into a bad situation right off to begin with." 

Heavy flames were coming from the first and second floors when firefighters arrived. Rescuers quickly freed Raymond Kinsella from the house, and he was breathing. He was taken to Berkshire Medical Center, where he died.

His wife's body also was recovered from the home.

Authorities declined to identify the victims, but neighbors, friends and assessors' records identify the Kinsellas as the owners of the home and victims of the fire.

Mays, who was awoken early Thursday to Karyn's cries for help for her parents to be rescued, described the residential neighborhood off North Street as a close-knit community. He would regularly chat with Raymond Kinsella, who was a musician, while he was walking his dog in the morning.  

Before Beverly Kinsella got sick a few years ago, she often could be found outside the home, maintaining the property, Mays said. 

"We talked every morning after a Patriots game," Mays said of Raymond Kinsella. "It is sad." 

The Kinsellas were animal lovers, and had at least one dog and several cats, he said. Thursday morning, the Fire Department was still working to account for the animals.

The home is likely a total loss, Czerwinski said. 

The blaze, which occurred in the middle of Fire Prevention Week, posed several challenges for first responders, Czerwinski said. It's unclear whether there were any working smoke detectors in the home. One was functioning in the basement, but firefighters didn't hear detectors on the first and second floors, he said.

The electrical cord that sparked the fire was only meant to be used temporarily but was covered in boxes and other debris. Possessions, which accumulated over time, filled the home, Czerwinski said. 

Clutter could be seen piled high through the first-floor windows Thursday afternoon while fire officials were coming and going from the home. Czerwinski said firefighters believed that paths in the home were clear enough that the residents could have gotten out, but at least one of them might have been disabled. 

"We delayed getting water on the fire so they could try and get those rescues accomplished," he said.

Czerwinski praised department members for risking their lives to rescue the couple before working to extinguish the blaze. One firefighter was treated at the hospital for a "strained" body part, he said. 

"Our guys did an excellent job. I can't say enough about our men."

Added Czerwinski: "We take this hard," saying that the firefighters will undergo a stress debriefing. "We take this personally."

The State Fire Marshal's Office and Berkshire Gas were called to the scene, and power was cut to the building during the response, Pittsfield Police said. Investigators remained on the scene throughout Thursday.

The previous fatal fire in the city was in 2016, when a 72-year-old man died after an apartment fire over the Tahiti Restaurant on Waconah Street. 

Richard Paul, who played in the Eagles Community Band with Raymond Kinsella for 30 years, described him as someone who would spring into action to help those around him.

"He was just a great, all-around good guy. A lovable guy," Paul said. "He took me under his wings when I joined the band, helped me out tremendously."

For more than four decades, Kinsella played the bugle for the band, which performs at venues across the city. He and Paul also would perform taps at funerals through the American Legion, Paul said.

Beverly Kinsella had been disabled for several years and was unable to walk on her own, Paul said.

"He's really going to be missed," Paul said of his bandmate. "We were out last night. We had a rehearsal last night. It's so shocking." 

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

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