By Dick Lindsay, Berkshire Eagle Staff
ADAMS -- Five people were left homeless days before Christmas as fire ripped through their apartment building over the weekend.
Adams fire officials say the tenants are staying with friends and relatives after escaping unharmed from the blaze that heavily damaged the four-unit building in the pre-dawn hours of Saturday morning.
The cause of the fire is under investigation by the state Fire Marshall Office, according to Adams Fire Chief Paul J. Goyette.
Meanwhile, a website has been set up to help raise money for the fire victims, three identified as members of the Palumbo family, according to fundraising organizers. According to a Facebook posting, the website is www.gofundme.com/5vbjsc.
At 3:16 a.m. on Saturday, the Adams Fire Department received a 911 call reporting a structure fire at 18 Temple Street, near Russell Field. When firefighters arrived, the occupants had safely fled the building that was fully involved.
"The fire had a good hold on the building," said Goyette. "There was heavy fire at the rear of the building from the basement to the roof."
Firefighters from Lanesborough, Cheshire and Clarksburg were called to the scene to help Adams battle a blaze that became a danger to the fire crews after 45 minutes of trying to douse the smoke and flames.
"At one point the fire was in all four apartments and I removed the firefighters fear of collapse," Goyette said.
He added, the approximately 40 firefighters eventually went back on the offensive and had the fire under control by 6:30, more three hours after the blaze began. Adams firefighters remained at the scene until 2 p.m., in case the fire rekindled.
While no tenants or firefighters were injured, Goyette noted one female resident complaining of chest pains was taken to North Adams Regional Hospital where she was treated and released.
Despite the fire damage -- which included a collapsed roof -- fire officials later in the day were able to help the tenants recover many personal items from their apartments.
Goyette says a state fire investigator determined the blaze originated at the rear of the three-story structure, but what ignited the flames is unknown at this time.
He noted, the Adams building inspector and code compliance officer will determine if the 133-year-old residence needs to be torn down. Built in 1880, the house is owned by James and Claire Adams who are believed to have insurance, but the estimated cost of the damage wasn't available on Sunday.
The mutual aid response to the fire included the North Adams Fire Department covering the Adams Fire Station and both the Adams and North Adams ambulance services at the scene assisting the exhausted firefighters.
More photos available in the Action Shots section.