GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. (NEWS10) – A teenager will face arson-related charges in connection with a fire on Sunday at the vacant Searles School, police and fire officials said Wednesday. The suspect, who is not being identified because he is under 17, will be summonsed to appear in Berkshire County Juvenile Court at a later date.
“Every fire has the potential to hurt someone,” said Great Barrington Fire Chief Charles Burger. “We’re fortunate that this particular incident didn’t grow larger and put the community or the firefighters who serve them at risk.”
The fire was first reported around 5 p.m. on Sunday, after someone noticed smoke coming from the second floor of the building at 79 Bridge Street. When firefighters made their way into the former school, they found combustible materials burning in one room with concrete walls and flooring. They were able to quickly extinguish the blaze.
A joint investigation by the Great Barrington fire and police departments and the State Fire Marshal’s Office determined that a piece of furniture had been set on fire, according to a joint statement. The teen suspect was identified based on witness interviews, observations at the scene, and evidence gathered in the course of an ongoing investigation.
Juvenile fire setting contributes to dozens of fires each year in Massachusetts, about half of which are started using smoking materials like matches and lighters, the joint statement said. Officials urged parents to keep these items away from children, and explain the dangers of fire.