Dalton neighbors alert each other as fire ravages home under renovation | Central Berkshires

Audrey J. Powers

DALTON — An early morning fire devoured a home undergoing renovation in Dalton, as neighbors ran to warn one another. 

The structure, at 92 Central Ave., first showed wisps of smoke, then appeared to burst into flames minutes later, a neighbor said. 

Though the home was not yet occupied, its new owners had recently moved appliances and other belongings in.

Fire Chief James Peltier said no one was injured. Due to the magnitude of the fire, the state Fire Marshal’s office was called in to inspect the damage, Peltier said. Peltier said he would need to speak with the representatives of that office before commenting on how the fire first began.

Peltier described the house as a “total loss.” What remained of the structure was taken down after the blaze was brought under control.

“It was going to fall down,” Peltier said. 

An owner of the property declined to comment at the scene. Peltier said he did not know the name of the owner.

According to land records, the property was purchased in June 2021 by Michael and Kristin Graeff.

firefighters use ladder truck

Pittsfield’s Tower 1 joins firefighters from multiple surrounding departments in fighting an early morning fire that engulfed the home at 92 Central Ave. in Dalton on Friday. 

Rebecca Daly, who lives across the street at 93 Central Ave., said she was awoken before 6 a.m. by the smell of smoke. She and her husband ran to neighboring homes to knock on doors and alert residents. 

Grace photo1.jpg

Grace Morrill was visiting with her grandparents on Central Avenue in Dalton and was among those warned of the fire at 92 Central Ave.

“Shocked,” Daly said, when asked how her neighbors reacted. “To walk out your front door and see a house engulfed in flames, it’s very scary.”

She said that within minutes of seeing smoke, the house across the street was wreathed by flames, as shown in a photo she took and shared with The Eagle.

One of the people she alerted, Grace Morrill, was staying next door at her grandparents’ home.

The fire singed siding of homes on both sides of the building that burned — and the heat produced was intense enough to nearly ignite Daly’s home, a fire official said. The fire also spread to a dumpster and to two cars parked nearby.

Due to the amount of property that was damaged, Peltier estimated the extent of the damage to be $500,000. The residents of the other damaged homes were allowed to return to their residences. Peltier said no one has requested alternative housing. 

The fire was reported to the Dalton Fire Department at 5:50 a.m., Peltier said. Crews from a half dozen area fire departments responded and were able to extinguish the fire by 7:15 a.m. Peltier called for mutual aid twice after he arrived because only three Dalton firefighters were able to respond when the initial call came in.  

three firefighters use fire hose

Firefighters from multiple departments finish fighting an early morning fire that engulfed the home at 92 Central Ave. in Dalton on Friday. 

The fire was so intense and so involved when firefighters arrived at the scene that that they were unable to enter the home to determine how the blaze began. 

“We couldn’t go in,” Peltier said at the scene. “It was fully involved on arrival, basically.”

Crews fought the fire by running hand lines from the street to the left and right sides of the burning home. Ladder trucks from both the Dalton and Pittsfield fire departments poured water on the blaze from above.

People on the scene said the property had recently sold to a granddaughter of its longtime owners, and had been under renovation for six months.

dalton fire chief james peltier

Dalton Fire Chief James Peltier, his helmet coated in a thick layer of soot, talks with fellow firefighters after beating back an early morning fire that engulfed the home at 92 Central Ave. in Dalton on Friday.

Bill Brown, who lives at 88 Central Ave., said he was stunned by the fire. “I couldn’t believe what was going on. I didn’t realize it until I got to the corner, (then) I thought, ‘What is today? Friday the 13th.'”

“They had to check the inside of our house,” Brown said, referring to his home at 88 Central Ave. “But we were okay. Fortunately we were fine.”

What did he think when Daly’s husband came to the door.

“I couldn’t believe what  was going on,” Brown said.

Departments that joined Dalton in responding to the fire included Pittsfield, Cheshire, Hinsdale, Savoy, Peru, Lanesborough and Lenox. 

Dalton fire site May 13 2022

A home undergoing renovation at 92 Central Ave. in Dalton burned early Friday. No one was living in the home at the time, officials say. 

Staff photographer Stephanie Zollshan contributed reporting.

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