Suspected Pittsfield arsonist arrested at Canadian border

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PITTSFIELD — A city man suspected of deliberately starting four fires — one destroying a home — in Pittsfield over the weekend has been arrested attempting to escape into Canada.

Pittsfield police late Sunday afternoon reported 58-year-old Phillip J. Jordan was arrested by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Agents apprehended at the Highgate Port of Entry in Highgate Springs, Vt. at the Canadian border.

Police say Jordan was taken into custody without incident and the Berkshire County District Attorney's Office is assisting with the arson suspect's extradition back to Massachusetts.

Pittsfield police and fire officials had been searching for Jordan since Saturday night, when he allegedly set the four fires, injuring no one, but gutting his own residence at 112 Appleton Ave., authorities said.

The Appleton Avenue blaze occurred around 6:40 p.m. followed shortly thereafter with fires at 47 Fort Hill Ave. and on Ridge Avenue. Later on Saturday night, a fourth fire broke out on Brown Street, all four apparently connected, according to Pittsfield Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski.

"Investigators are confident all four fires were set," Czerwinski told The Eagle on Sunday afternoon.

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Pittsfield police detectives, city fire investigators and the State Fire Marshal's Office have joined forces to probe how the fires started.

Czerwinski said investigators believe all four fires were started with an incendiary device. No injuries were reported to residents or firefighters at all four fire scenes.

Police Chief Michael Wynn reported Saturday night that the suspect authorities were tracking, eventually identified as Jordan, was a resident of 112 Appleton Ave. and has family members at the Fort Hill and Ridge Avenue addresses.

The Appleton Avenue fire was the worst, with flames engulfing the second floor and shooting through the roof, virtually gutting the building, Czerwinski said.

Tom Wojtokowski, owner of the Ridge Avenue home, said on Saturday he was sitting at home watching television when he saw the fire. He and other witnesses said a small gas can was set on fire and left at the home.

Dick Lindsay can be reached at rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com and 413-496-6233.


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