Pine Cobble fire destroys house and chars 20 acres of surrounding forest

Firefighters from six local communities converged last Wednesday near the summit of Pine Cobble Road to battle a large structure and brush fire in response to a 9-1-1 call. The blaze, which started in a home that was under construction, destroyed the building and burned nearly 20 acres of forest after spreading to the adjacent woods.

No one suffered injuries in the blaze, Williamstown Fire Chief Craig Pedercini said. He is still investigating the cause of the incident.
The three-story home involved in the fire was being built for Peter Pedroni, associate professor of economics and his wife, Julie Pedroni, visiting assistant professor of philosophy. According to The North Adams Transcript, the couple bought the property from the College last October.

“We were heartbroken by the loss of our new home,” Peter Pedroni said. “Like anyone who has built a home, we put a lot of heart and energy into it, as did the architect, the builders and everyone involved in the project.”

“The enormous outpouring of support and sympathy has been comforting, and we are truly grateful to be part of the Williams and Williamstown community,” Pedroni said, adding that he and his wife were also grateful to the firefighters who responded to the call and worked so hard to help contain the fire. “We would like to thank everyone for the support they have given us.”

Students who were at sports practices reported seeing the fire clearly from Cole Field when it began sometime after 4 p.m.

“It sprang up really quickly,” said Will Bobseine ’10, who was at rugby practice when he noticed the fire. “Even from the field it looked like a fierce fire, and we could tell it was a house. It seemed to be burning unchecked for 10 minutes, maybe longer.”

According to Pedercini, the windy conditions and warm weather aided the quick growth of the blaze and its spread to the nearby brush. While firefighters had mostly put out the fire by 8 p.m., the Forest Wardens Department returned to the site the following morning to clear the woods of any remaining hot-spots.

“In Berkshire county and everywhere in the state, we all have the risk of forest fires this time of year, and until things really green up it is best to be cautious [with fires near brush],” Pedercini said.

Among the dozens of volunteer firefighters who responded to the call, six were students at the College.

“I was at the track and heard the tones go off, so I ran down to the station,” said Jonathan Levinsohn ’10. “It wasn’t clear how bad it was until I heard over the radio that they were being defensive about it, which meant that it was a pretty serious situation. We tried to keep it from spreading into the woods too much but it did spread off the back pretty quickly, which made it a long day having to deal with both the house fire and the brush fire.”

While Pedercini said that it will take time to finish his inspection and for the Pedronis and those who were working at the site to account for their losses, he was optimistic that the family would eventually be able to rebuild. “It’s going to be a few months, but I’d like to see them back in action by June,” he said.