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Student victim of Amherst fire identified as James Hoffman

  • Firefighters from Hadley prepare to leave the Rolling Green at Amherst apartment complex Monday after an early morning fire that officials say killed one man and displaced some 30 tenants from ten units.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Firefighters from Hadley prepare to leave the Rolling Green at Amherst apartment complex Monday after an early morning fire that officials say killed one man and displaced some 30 tenants from ten units.
    KEVIN GUTTING

  • Amherst Assistant Fire Chief Lindsay Stromgren talks to media about an early morning fatal  fire at Rolling Green apartments on Monday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Amherst Assistant Fire Chief Lindsay Stromgren talks to media about an early morning fatal fire at Rolling Green apartments on Monday.
    KEVIN GUTTING

  • Fire crews fight the blaze at Rolling Green Apartments early Monday morning.<br/>STEPHANIE JERNIGAN

    Fire crews fight the blaze at Rolling Green Apartments early Monday morning.
    STEPHANIE JERNIGAN

  • Firefighters from Hadley and several other towns prepare to leave the Rolling Green at Amherst apartment complex Monday after an early morning fire that officials say killed one man and displaced some 30 tenants from ten units.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Firefighters from Hadley and several other towns prepare to leave the Rolling Green at Amherst apartment complex Monday after an early morning fire that officials say killed one man and displaced some 30 tenants from ten units.
    KEVIN GUTTING

  • Amherst Assistant Fire Chief Lindsay Stromgren talks to media about an early morning fatal fire at the Rolling Green at Amherst apartment complex on Monday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Amherst Assistant Fire Chief Lindsay Stromgren talks to media about an early morning fatal fire at the Rolling Green at Amherst apartment complex on Monday.
    KEVIN GUTTING

  • Hadley firefighters negotiate an icy parking lot at the Rolling Green at Amherst apartment complex Monday as they leave an early morning fire that officials say killed one man and displaced some 30 tenants.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Hadley firefighters negotiate an icy parking lot at the Rolling Green at Amherst apartment complex Monday as they leave an early morning fire that officials say killed one man and displaced some 30 tenants.
    KEVIN GUTTING

  • A Hadley firefighter walks past the back of a ten-unit building that was damaged in an early morning fire at the Rolling Green at Amherst apartment complex Monday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    A Hadley firefighter walks past the back of a ten-unit building that was damaged in an early morning fire at the Rolling Green at Amherst apartment complex Monday.
    KEVIN GUTTING

  • A Hadley firefighter walks past the back of a ten-unit building that was damaged in an early morning fire at the Rolling Green at Amherst apartment complex Monday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING<br/>

    A Hadley firefighter walks past the back of a ten-unit building that was damaged in an early morning fire at the Rolling Green at Amherst apartment complex Monday.
    KEVIN GUTTING

  • These are the front entrances to apartments #201, left, and #202 at the Rolling Green at Amherst complex on Belchertown Road. Fire units from Amherst and several other towns responded to an early morning fatal fire at the complex on Monday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    These are the front entrances to apartments #201, left, and #202 at the Rolling Green at Amherst complex on Belchertown Road. Fire units from Amherst and several other towns responded to an early morning fatal fire at the complex on Monday.
    KEVIN GUTTING

  • Fire units from Amherst and several other towns responded to an early morning fatal fire at Rolling Green Apartments at Amherst on Monday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Fire units from Amherst and several other towns responded to an early morning fatal fire at Rolling Green Apartments at Amherst on Monday.
    KEVIN GUTTING

  • Firefighters from Amherst and several other towns prepare to leave the Rolling Green at Amherst apartment complex Monday after an early morning fire that officials say killed one man and displaced some 30 tenants from ten units.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Firefighters from Amherst and several other towns prepare to leave the Rolling Green at Amherst apartment complex Monday after an early morning fire that officials say killed one man and displaced some 30 tenants from ten units.
    KEVIN GUTTING

  • Fire and investigation officials stand in front of apartment 202 of the Rolling Green at Amherst complex Monday, one of ten units damaged during an early morning fatal fire.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Fire and investigation officials stand in front of apartment 202 of the Rolling Green at Amherst complex Monday, one of ten units damaged during an early morning fatal fire.
    KEVIN GUTTING

  • Firefighters from Amherst and several other towns prepare to leave the Rolling Green at Amherst apartment complex Monday after an early morning fire that officials say killed one man and displaced some 30 tenants from these ten units.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Firefighters from Amherst and several other towns prepare to leave the Rolling Green at Amherst apartment complex Monday after an early morning fire that officials say killed one man and displaced some 30 tenants from these ten units.
    KEVIN GUTTING

  • Fire burns at Rolling Green Apartments in Amherst early Monday morning. <br/>LISA OLINER

    Fire burns at Rolling Green Apartments in Amherst early Monday morning.
    LISA OLINER

  • Fire burns at Rolling Green Apartments in Amherst early Monday morning. <br/>LISA OLINER

    Fire burns at Rolling Green Apartments in Amherst early Monday morning.
    LISA OLINER

  • Fire burns at Rolling Green Apartments in Amherst early Monday morning. <br/>LISA OLINER

    Fire burns at Rolling Green Apartments in Amherst early Monday morning.
    LISA OLINER

  • Fire burns at Rolling Green Apartments in Amherst early Monday morning. <br/>LISA OLINER

    Fire burns at Rolling Green Apartments in Amherst early Monday morning.
    LISA OLINER

  • Two college-aged men comfort each other Monday at the Rolling Green at Amherst apartments where one man perished in an early morning fire that also left some 30 people displaced.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Two college-aged men comfort each other Monday at the Rolling Green at Amherst apartments where one man perished in an early morning fire that also left some 30 people displaced.
    KEVIN GUTTING

  • Firefighters from Hadley prepare to leave the Rolling Green at Amherst apartment complex Jan. 21 after an early morning fire that officials say killed one man and displaced some 30 tenants from 10 units.<br/><br/><br/>GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

    Firefighters from Hadley prepare to leave the Rolling Green at Amherst apartment complex Jan. 21 after an early morning fire that officials say killed one man and displaced some 30 tenants from 10 units.


    GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • Amherst Assistant Fire Chief Lindsay Stromgren talks to media about an early morning fatal  fire at Rolling Green apartments Jan 21.<br/><br/>GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

    Amherst Assistant Fire Chief Lindsay Stromgren talks to media about an early morning fatal fire at Rolling Green apartments Jan 21.

    GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • Firefighters from Hadley prepare to leave the Rolling Green at Amherst apartment complex Monday after an early morning fire that officials say killed one man and displaced some 30 tenants from ten units.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Firefighters from Hadley prepare to leave the Rolling Green at Amherst apartment complex Monday after an early morning fire that officials say killed one man and displaced some 30 tenants from ten units.
    KEVIN GUTTING

  • Hadley firefighters negotiate an icy parking lot at the Rolling Green at Amherst apartment complex Monday as they leave an early morning fire that officials say killed one man and displaced some 30 tenants.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Hadley firefighters negotiate an icy parking lot at the Rolling Green at Amherst apartment complex Monday as they leave an early morning fire that officials say killed one man and displaced some 30 tenants.
    KEVIN GUTTING

  • Firefighters from Hadley prepare to leave the Rolling Green at Amherst apartment complex Monday after an early morning fire that officials say killed one man and displaced some 30 tenants from ten units.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Amherst Assistant Fire Chief Lindsay Stromgren talks to media about an early morning fatal  fire at Rolling Green apartments on Monday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Fire crews fight the blaze at Rolling Green Apartments early Monday morning.<br/>STEPHANIE JERNIGAN
  • Firefighters from Hadley and several other towns prepare to leave the Rolling Green at Amherst apartment complex Monday after an early morning fire that officials say killed one man and displaced some 30 tenants from ten units.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Amherst Assistant Fire Chief Lindsay Stromgren talks to media about an early morning fatal fire at the Rolling Green at Amherst apartment complex on Monday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Hadley firefighters negotiate an icy parking lot at the Rolling Green at Amherst apartment complex Monday as they leave an early morning fire that officials say killed one man and displaced some 30 tenants.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • A Hadley firefighter walks past the back of a ten-unit building that was damaged in an early morning fire at the Rolling Green at Amherst apartment complex Monday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • A Hadley firefighter walks past the back of a ten-unit building that was damaged in an early morning fire at the Rolling Green at Amherst apartment complex Monday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING<br/>
  • These are the front entrances to apartments #201, left, and #202 at the Rolling Green at Amherst complex on Belchertown Road. Fire units from Amherst and several other towns responded to an early morning fatal fire at the complex on Monday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Fire units from Amherst and several other towns responded to an early morning fatal fire at Rolling Green Apartments at Amherst on Monday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Firefighters from Amherst and several other towns prepare to leave the Rolling Green at Amherst apartment complex Monday after an early morning fire that officials say killed one man and displaced some 30 tenants from ten units.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Fire and investigation officials stand in front of apartment 202 of the Rolling Green at Amherst complex Monday, one of ten units damaged during an early morning fatal fire.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Firefighters from Amherst and several other towns prepare to leave the Rolling Green at Amherst apartment complex Monday after an early morning fire that officials say killed one man and displaced some 30 tenants from these ten units.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Fire burns at Rolling Green Apartments in Amherst early Monday morning. <br/>LISA OLINER
  • Fire burns at Rolling Green Apartments in Amherst early Monday morning. <br/>LISA OLINER
  • Fire burns at Rolling Green Apartments in Amherst early Monday morning. <br/>LISA OLINER
  • Fire burns at Rolling Green Apartments in Amherst early Monday morning. <br/>LISA OLINER
  • Two college-aged men comfort each other Monday at the Rolling Green at Amherst apartments where one man perished in an early morning fire that also left some 30 people displaced.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Firefighters from Hadley prepare to leave the Rolling Green at Amherst apartment complex Jan. 21 after an early morning fire that officials say killed one man and displaced some 30 tenants from 10 units.<br/><br/><br/>GAZETTE FILE PHOTO
  • Amherst Assistant Fire Chief Lindsay Stromgren talks to media about an early morning fatal  fire at Rolling Green apartments Jan 21.<br/><br/>GAZETTE FILE PHOTO
  • Firefighters from Hadley prepare to leave the Rolling Green at Amherst apartment complex Monday after an early morning fire that officials say killed one man and displaced some 30 tenants from ten units.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Hadley firefighters negotiate an icy parking lot at the Rolling Green at Amherst apartment complex Monday as they leave an early morning fire that officials say killed one man and displaced some 30 tenants.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

AMHERST — A University of Massachusetts student died and an estimated 30 people were left homeless after a fire damaged a 10-unit building at Rolling Green at Amherst apartments early Monday morning, according to Amherst fire officials.

The UMass student was found dead in one of the units, said Amherst Assistant Fire Chief Lindsay Stromgren.

The Massachusetts Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on Tuesday identified the victim as James E. Hoffman, 21, of Stoughton.

The cause of the fire that destroyed five apartments and heavily damaged five others in one building at the complex at 422 Belchertown Road has also not yet been determined, Stromgren said.

The fire is being jointly investigated by State Police assigned to Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan’s Office and State Police assigned to the Office of the State Fire Marshal, members of the Amherst Fire Department and officers from the Amherst Police Department. Additional assistance is coming from Massachusetts State Police Crime Scene Services and the Code Compliance Unit of the State Fire Marshal’s Office.

Firefighters arrived at 4:45 a.m. and found a portion of the building fully involved, with smoke and flames coming from the front of the 10-unit building closest to Route 9, Stromgren said,

He said it was a “very strong flame” and “five units are completely gutted by the fire.”

The fire is believed to have started in unit 202 and spread to the neighboring units, all of which are townhouse-style, with kitchens and living rooms on the first floor and bedrooms and bathrooms on the second floor. He said the investigation will determine whether smoke detectors were functioning in the unit where the fire began.

Among the tenants displaced by the blaze are 20 University of Massachusetts students, Stromgren said. There were also some families living in that section of the apartment complex. “Ultimately, it will be about 30 people displaced,” he said.

Hoffman was found on the second floor of the unit in which the fire started, and two other people living in the apartment escaped safely.

Stromgren said firefighters have not responded to a fire in Amherst with this much damage in several years. “We haven’t had one like this where it guts many apartments in a while,” Stromgren said.

Awoke to banging

Stephanie Jernigan, who lives in unit 204 with her daughter Melanie, 13, and son Jonevan, 5, said she was awakened around 4:30 a.m. by a loud banging sound and then heard a smoke alarm coming from a nearby unit.

When she looked outside, she saw two people standing on the lawn in front of unit 202. “The people just stood there and watched. They were just talking and they said, ‘That’s smoke. I think I better call somebody,’” Jernigan said.

When she became aware that the smoke likely meant a fire, Jernigan said she woke up her children, “As I was getting my son’s clothes out of the dresser, I heard a window break,” Jernigan said.

She then rushed to get her son dressed, and grabbed her purse and a container with her mother’s ashes and ran out from the apartment with her children. “When we got out the door, that’s when I could see the fire in their house,” Jernigan said.

Once safely outside, she called 911. Police were first to arrive, followed a few minutes later by fire engines.

Four UMass students, all juniors from Pittsfield who live in unit 203, confirmed Jernigan’s account that a loud banging sound was what first drew their attention that something was amiss.

Dan Hewitt said he got up when he heard the noise and then, looking out the window, saw flames at the neighboring residence and already burning the gutter on the roof line.

After Hewitt’s roommates, Gregg Mancari, Dave Carusotto and Mark Metivier, got dressed, and Hewitt and Carusotto were able to grab their cellphones and laptops, they all left their home. “We gathered as much as we could and got out,” Hewitt said.

Mancari said he was able to leave only with the clothes he was wearing. They huddled in a car to stay warm, with Hewitt noting the temperature was just 18 degrees.

Assistance offered

The Pioneer Valley Red Cross, UMass officials and Rolling Green management were on the scene at mid-morning along with officials from the state police and fire marshal’s office. Amherst firefighters were assisted by fire crews from Belchertown, Hadley, Leverett, Northampton, South Hadley and Sunderland.

Jernigan said her son was already staying with his father, but she did not know where she and her daughter would be going. They have lived at Rolling Green for four years. “We just don’t know what to expect at this point,” she said. “Having a place to stay is my main concern.”

Jernigan said the Red Cross had supplied her gift cards for clothing and food and she was waiting to hear about possible shelter.

Metivier said UMass was quick to get in touch with him and his fellow students, who moved into the apartment in July.

“They told us they will be accommodating us in a dorm,” Metivier said. “It’s really nice of them to offer it.”

UMass spokesman Edward Blaguszewski confirmed early Monday evening that he was notified that the man who died was a UMass student.

“This is a terrible tragedy, and we deeply mourn this loss of life,” Blaguszewski said.

He added that the dean of students office was still processing information and reaching out to those affected to make sure they have a safe and warm place to stay.

“Our priority is to make sure students are cared for and housed,” Blaguszewski said.

He said Lincoln Apartments and the Campus Center Hotel could serve as temporary living quarters, should the students require it.

Blaguszewski said the university would offer all of its resources, including the provision of food and psychological assistance. “Our counseling services are activated and offered to students,” he said.

Like Jernigan, the UMass students are taking advantage of Red Cross services. “Red Cross has been a big help,” Metivier said.

“They got here quick and provided a lot of help to everybody,” Hewitt added.

Jernigan and the college students said they have some insurance. “We do have renters’ insurance, but we don’t know what it covers,” Mancari said.

Jernigan said the fire will have an impact on her ability to feel safe. “This is something I will struggle with for a while. When you wake up out of sleep to a fire, it’s definitely a living nightmare,” she said.

Both Town Manager John Musante and Assistant Town Manager David Ziomek were at the scene of the early in the morning.

Stromgren said no serious injuries occurred to any fire personnel, though two firefighters did slip and fall on iced-over pavement.

By 8 a.m., the fire was under control, with several Amherst Fire Department engines still on the scene. The roof on the two-story structure was consumed in the fire and items from the apartments, including a couch, were on the ground outside. Five units on the east side of the building were destroyed. The five on the west side sustained heavy smoke and water damage.

Jernigan said she hoped to go back into her home to salvage what she could, noting that family photos are the most important items she will try to gather.

While she got out safely, Jernigan said she wishes every apartment were equipped with a fire extinguisher, which she said might have prompted the tenants to take quicker action in putting out the blaze before it spread.

Stromgren said management of the apartment complex is expected to secure the structure by boarding up windows and doors in the evening.

On Jan. 7, Amherst firefighters responded to their first major structure fire in more than two years when a Leverett Road home was heavily damaged, leaving a family of five homeless.

Related

Banging alerts tenants to deadly fire at Rolling Green at Amherst apartments

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

AMHERST — Four lifelong friends from Pittsfield, all University of Massachusetts Amherst students, lost their home in a fire that ravaged a building at Rolling Green at Amherst apartments Monday, killing one person. The Massachusetts Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on Tuesday identified the victim as James E. Hoffman, 21, of Stoughton. At midday Monday, the trees near the …

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