‘We Had 15 Cars On Fire Inside This Place’, Crisis Averted At Pittsfield Mill Fire
I was heading back from dinner at Sibarita's in Pittsfield on Wednesday night when I could see smoke in the air from a distance. As I approached upper North Street the smoke was getting worse.
I then approached Zucchini's Restaurant only to find thick, black smoke chugging from a window in the mill building behind it. There were some people standing outside witnessing what I was. The fire department had not arrived yet, but I knew this was not gonna be a nice situation.
Listeners of "Slater and Marjo In The Morning" may have heard Deputy Chief Dan Garner explain in a six and half minute recorded phone call about what happened. The tenured firefighter went on to explain that in his 25 years on the job, this was one of the buildings he never wanted to see catch on fire, nevermind getting out of control.
At one point during the phone call, Garner explained that there were 15 cars that were fully involved in fire inside the mill.
On Thursday, at 8:28 p.m. the Pittsfield Fire Department was dispatched to 20 Keeler Street for a reported structure fire. We were already on scene of a fire alarm activation on Benedict Road when called for the Keeler address. Engine 5, Engine 3, Engine 1, Truck 2, and Car 2 responded. Truck 2 was first on scene and reported heavy fire showing from multiple first floor windows. Car 2 initiated a double alarm assignment, bringing the remaining two engines (Engine 6 and Engine 2) to the scene.
20 Keeler is a business located in the Wyandotte Mill complex. This complex is a large 1800’s era wool mill which has since been converted into numerous businesses. These include a pool chemical supply company, auto body shop, metal fabrication business among others. The origin area of the fire was concentrated in an auto body shop/motor vehicle storage space. This space had an estimated 15 motor vehicles and possibly some boats inside the space. On PFD arrival many of these vehicles were fully involved with fire inside the building and fire was extending throughout the building. The strategy at this fire was to contain the fire to the auto body area and avoid extension into the adjacent pool supply business, which holds a high quantity of chemicals and oxidizers (many of which area water reactive).
Wyandotte Mill being a turn of the century mill was a benefit for our department. The mill construction is classified as ‘heavy timber’. The building elements are incredibly strong with excellent fire resistive properties, even though the supporting members are exposed.
A third alarm was struck, bringing Lenox Fire Department’s Engine 3 directly to the scene. Pittsfield’s reserve aerial ladder was away for yearly maintenance, so an additional nine firefighters responded in pickup trucks.
This was a coordinated, herculean effort on the part of all firefighters working this fire. It was eventually confined, contained, and extinguished within 3 hours. All fire damage was limited to the first floor. Damage estimate is not available at this time. Members of the Pittsfield Fire Investigation Unit, Pittsfield Police, and MA State Fire Marshal’s Office are investigating.
There were no reported firefighter or civilian injuries. Pittsfield Police helped remove occupants from adjacent apartments at the onset of operations.
We thank our brother and sisters from neighboring departments who helped respond and cover the City during this event. Lenox, Adams, Cheshire, Dalton, Lanesboro, and Hinsdale Fire to name a few. -Deputy Chief Daniel Garner
I wanted to note that since I saw some other passersby outside the structure, I assumed that someone else had called 911. That turned out to be true, but I should have called just to make sure. Lesson learned.
A great job by The Pittsfield Fire Department and all else involved.