Jacob’s Pillow fire cause undetermined due to extensive damage

  • Firefighters work to extinguish a fire at the Doris Duke Theatre at Jacob's Pillow in Becket that burned in an early morning fire, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020. The Berkshire Eagle via AP/file photo

Published: 2/16/2021 5:25:30 PM

BECKET — After an extensive investigation, the cause of the Nov. 17 fire at the Jacob’s Pillow performance venue is officially undetermined, State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey, Becket Fire Chief Paul Mikaniewicz and Becket Police Chief Kristopher McDonough announced Tuesday.

The 6:50 a.m. fire destroyed the smaller of two performance buildings at the site known as the Doris Duke Theatre. Damage to the property at 358 George Carter Road in Becket is estimated at $3 million. There were no injuries.

Investigators determined that the fire started around the patron’s entrance to the building. Whether it started on the exterior or interior cannot be determined due to the extensive damage. It is possible that improperly discarded smoking materials or electronic equipment inside the entryway ignited the fire.

The fire alarm system had been in failure mode since Halloween, so there was no immediate notification to the fire department. Sprinkler analysis found that the sprinkler system may have worked for about 30 minutes before the pump failed. This same pump also operated the fire hydrant, which did not function. This led to a short delay in establishing sufficient water supply and flow. Firefighters established a tanker shuttle system to obtain water to put out the fire and used a pond on site.

“The delayed notification coupled with the failure of the fire sprinkler pump caused extensive damage before the fire department arrived,” Mikaniewicz said. “This fire had a grip on the building before we were even notified of the fire.”

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