Pittsfield woman dies after being rescued from burning home

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PITTSFIELD — A city woman, whom neighbors described as a kind, soft-spoken presence on Chickering Street, died from injuries suffered in a fire at her home Monday night.

Frances Lysonski, 74, was rescued by firefighters on the second floor, after an extensive search of the home, and taken to Berkshire Medical Center, where she died a short time later.

One firefighter was injured when he tumbled off a ladder while trying to locate Lysonski.

Lysonski lived at her home at 73 Chickering St. for decades, where she raised her four children, according to longtime neighbor Sharyn Fresia.

“You couldn’t ask for a nicer person," Fresia said of her neighbor, whom she knew as Fran. The two were fellow parishioners of St. Joseph’s Church. 

Outside her home a few houses up the street, Fresia said Lysonski was a wonderful woman, and she recalled that, in January, the two attended the parish's Twelfth Night Festival. She said Lysonski also enjoyed the church's Polish picnics. 

Fresia said she was home Monday evening when she heard someone scream “fire!” Neighbors said Tuesday that a bystander had noticed smoke coming from the home, where Lysonski lived alone, and tried to alert the woman by banging on the front door and crying out.

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Fresia called 911 and was told that firefighters already were responding. She said she contacted one of Lysonski’s sons, who rushed to the scene.

Fire Chief Thomas Sammons said firefighters arrived about 10:15 p.m. and saw flames coming from a window on the first floor, licking siding of the white home. Neighbors said firefighters moved quickly and deliberately during the rescue, and Sammons said two crews made entry, one from the front and one from the rear.

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One of the firefighters fell off a ladder as he tried to enter a second-floor window, Sammons said. The firefighter, a five-year veteran assigned to Engine 5, was treated at BMC and released.

“He's beat up pretty bad," he said. "He has stitches above his eye and a broken wrist.”

Firefighters encountered heavy smoke and high heat in the home, Sammons said, adding that a large amount of possessions accumulated in the house made it challenging for firefighters to make their way through the home and locate Lysonski. Belongings, some apparently charred, could be seen piled outside her home the morning after the fire.

Lysonski was found on the second floor and rushed to the hospital, where she died about 11:20 p.m., according to the Berkshire District Attorney's Office.

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The cause of the fire, which Sammons said originated on the first floor, is under investigation by Pittsfield fire and police, state police assigned to the Office of the State Fire Marshal and the District Attorney's Office. Investigators are focusing on an accidental cause.

Sammons said the investigation so far shows that there was at least one working smoke detector in the home. He praised firefighters’ response to the fire. 

“They had a quick knockdown," he said. "They did an aggressive interior attack and they got it under control pretty quick.”

While neighbors said Lyonski spent much of her time inside her home, a neighbor who asked not to be named said she sometimes heard Lysonski singing a favorite song, “You Are My Sunshine," to a neighborhood child. 

“She had a heart of gold, and she didn’t have a bad thing to say about anybody,” she said. “The neighborhood’s going to be different without her.” 

Amanda Burke can be reached at aburke@berkshireeagle.com, on Twitter @amandaburkec and 413-496-6296.


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