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North Adams Scrapyard Fire Leads To Air Quality Warnings

A thick plume of smoke rises out of a landscape of green-leaved trees behind a brick building
Forrest Houghton

Dramatic images came out of North Adams, Massachusetts today as a scrapyard fire sent thick black smoke into the air above the city. Over a dozen fire departments and state units responded, and North Adams sent multiple warnings to city residents about potentially dangerous air quality conditions. WAMC spoke this afternoon with Mayor Tom Bernard about what transpired over the course of the day, and when he expects the fire to be under control.

BERNARD: At approximately 10:15 this morning, the fire department responded to a reported car fire at the Apkins scrapyard off State Street. Their initial assessment was that it was more significant than initially reported, affecting multiple vehicles and material at the scrapyard.

WAMC: Now, it produced a rather prodigious amount of dark smoke. What kind of advisories were going out to folks in North Adams during the worst of the blaze?

So the early advisories were to close windows, turn off AC, businesses to shut off their HVAC, people to stay inside as much as much as possible. What we have seen this afternoon is preliminary assessments by the Department of Environmental Protection and Division of Fire Services are not indicating a significant air quality risk at this time, so we've started to pull back those warnings for most of the city. Given the proximity to the firefighting operation, the Ashland and Church Street neighborhoods, those recommendations are still in place at this time.

Were any buildings damaged or anyone hurt while battling the fire?

So again, this is a scrapyard or a junkyard fire. So it was not near any structures at the scrapyard and the last report I had was of no injuries going into this evening.

Are there any advisories in place for folks in North Adams beyond the immediate surroundings of the scrapyard on State Street?

Nothing, nothing significant at this time, we anticipate that overnight firefighting operations will be conducted by a task force from Hampshire County.

The fire produced quite a dramatic image. Can you describe for listeners what exactly it looked like in North Adams today?

It looked smoky, it looked it looked hazy. I think you said, you know, there was a large cloud of black smoke emanating from the scene of the fire and you know, kind of the wind taking it over the valley. Some of that and, you know, a lot of it has cleared at this point, but the operation is still ongoing. So, you know, we're watching that cautiously and air monitoring will continue.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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