Police: Arson cause of A-Mart fire in Pittsfield; arrest made

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PITTSFIELD — The Tuesday evening fire at A-Mart was intentionally set, according to police. 

Thomas Roberts, 51, of Pittsfield, was arrested Wednesday and charged with arson in the North Street blaze, leaders of the Pittsfield Police Department said in a news release. Roberts also was charged with injuring a firefighter, police said.

Pittsfield Police Capt. Mark Trapani wrote that members of the department's anti-crime unit found Roberts in a city motel.

"The investigators would like to thank all of the persons that provided information, and businesses that provided access to their video surveillance systems, which enabled us to quickly resolve the case," he said in the release.

The fire was reported at 10:24 p.m. Tuesday, and Fire Department and Police Department investigators began their investigation Wednesday morning, Deputy Fire Chief Matthew Noyes said.

The blaze left the landmark store in ruins.

"There's a lot to go through here," Noyes said. 

The State Fire Marshal's Office had been contacted, he said, which is standard procedure in a fire investigation.

He said the building that houses A-Mart was "a total loss," but firefighters were able to contain the blaze in the L-shaped building before it spread to an adjoining business, Sim's Barber Shop.

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"We were able to save Sim's," Fire Chief Thomas Sammons said. "We we're trying to keep it at the other end of the L, and we were able to do that."

All of the Pittsfield firefighters who were on duty Tuesday night responded to the blaze, Sammons said. One firefighter suffered a shoulder injury but was treated and released, Noyes said. No other injuries were reported.

He said no one was in the store when the fire was reported, as A-Mart had closed at 10 p.m.

A volunteer firefighter from one of Pittsfield's neighboring communities reported the blaze to the Fire Department when he noticed smoke coming from the building while driving home from work, Noyes said. When firefighters arrived, fire was coming out of the south side of the structure. 

They then noticed the blaze had made its way to the roof. Firefighters entered the building and began pulling down the ceiling to the right of the front door, where they found flames had penetrated the area above. 

"From there, we concentrated on cutting it off to the corner of the building," Noyes said. "Sim's suffered some smoke damage. I don't think they'll be open for quite awhile."

A crowd gathered around the scene Tuesday evening. Smoke billowed high into the sky and was visible from across town. Black soot covered the store's iconic North Street sign. 

Tony Dobrowolski can be reached at tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6224.

Amanda Drane can be reached at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296. 


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