July 22, 2008

Firefighter Injured in Blaze

By Conor Berry, The Berkshire Eagle, Pittsfield, Mass.

Jul. 22--PITTSFIELD -- A lightning strike from a violent thunderstorm storm that whipped through the Berkshires late Friday afternoon sparked a house fire that injured a city firefighter.

The severe thunderstorm toppled more than 100 trees and electrical wires when it barreled through the region like a runaway freight train late Friday afternoon, according to Deputy Chief Mark A. Cancilla of the Pittsfield Fire Department.

The firefighter, whose name was not released, suffered a back injury after he fell down a flight of stairs while fighting a Gale Avenue house fire. His status was not immediately known.

The blaze, which was reported at 6:45 p.m. Friday, started after lightning struck the roof portion of the house, the attic of which sustained heavy fire damage. The first floor of the residence suffered water damage, while the second floor experienced smoke and water damage.

The lightning strike blew a 4-foot hole in the roof, said Cancilla, who noted that at least a dozen cars were crushed by fallen trees and limbs in the storm.

City police and fire officials responded to a barrage of calls about downed wires and trees, beginning at about 6:30 p.m. Friday. The fast-moving storm included wind gusts of around 60 miles per hour in Pittsfield, and it was blamed for trashing the Pittsfield Art Show.

About 30 tents erected for the show, which was scheduled to kickoff yesterday morning on North Street, were shredded by the high winds and heavy rain, which transformed the canopies into a spindly mess of metal and vinyl.


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