Fire damages Paragon Arts & Industry Building in Easthampton

Last modified: Tuesday, August 05, 2014

EASTHAMPTON — A small fire inside a fitness studio on the top floor of the Paragon Arts & Industry Building caused minor smoke and fire damage to the building, but more than $90,000 in artwork may have been damaged by water that entered ground-floor art studios Monday evening, according to the Easthampton Fire Department.

No injuries were reported.

Firefighters responded to the 150 Pleasant St. building at 6:01 p.m. when a fire alarm activated and found smoke on the third floor. With zero visibility, firefighters used a thermal imager to locate the fire, which was being doused by sprinklers.

The fire was caused by paper towels soaked with oil, based on an investigation by the state fire marshal’s office and the Easthampton fire and police departments.

Ronald and Marilyn Sturgill, who own the mill building, said the fire began on the third floor, in the center of the building above the main entrance.

“It was one little fire on one desk,” said Ronald Sturgill, who had come with his wife from their Amherst home and stood outside the building observing Easthampton firefighters completing their work. “The sprinkler system came on pretty quickly.”

Sturgill said the extent of damage to the building appeared to be minimal. He said there is likely water damage to Fitness Fusion, a post office mail room on the second floor and an office in a karate studio on the ground floor.

But Fire Capt. Kevin Benson said because a shutoff valve for the sprinkler system would not close, there was substantial water damage that may have compromised a portion of the building’s electrical systems.

Only a handful of people were in the building when the fire alarms sounded. About a dozen people who vacated the building gathered on a grassy slope outside.

One man, who would not identify himself, said he heard the alarm, smelled smoke and then got out.

Smoke from the fire dissipated quickly, with firefighters putting fans in the windows. Northampton and Holyoke firefighters provided mutual aid.

Ronald Sturgill said the building has been in his wife’s family since the 1950s and the couple have owned the building since the 1980s. He said this is the first time he can recall any fire in the building, although sprinklers have been installed for many years.

Marilyn Sturgill said about 75 tenants rent space in the building, including Small Beer Press and Feeding Tube Records, and several artists, such as Maggie Nowinski and Kellie Murphy.

Burns Maxey, coordinator for Easthampton City Arts+, said in an email that she believed some art studios did sustain damage, although there was no definitive information. “We’re hoping for the best,” Maxey said.

The building had been home to the Paragon Rubber Plant until its closing in 1989, and Spring Action Electric Corp., which closed in 2001.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at


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