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Details of Jacob's Pillow fire emerging

Apr 01, 2021 2:45 pm

Heather Below is reporting for The Berkshire Eagle new details are emerging about the fire that destroyed the Doris Duke Theatre at Jacob's Pillow in November 2020, as two reports obtained by The Eagle are now available following a public records request. On Oct. 31, a local security firm monitoring the sprinkler and fire alarm system called to alert an employee at the Becket, Mass., dance center that the Doris Duke Theatre had not self-tested or received signals the day before. The employee told Lee Audio N’ Security to “ignore the fault,” essentially severing a key communications network between the two locations. Less than three weeks later a blaze destroyed the performance venue. The loss of communication with the alarm company slowed the response to the fire, as did the failure of a water pump that prevented the sprinklers from operating. Firefighters learned when they arrived the main water pump did not work, even through the system appeared to have been functional. A report by Massachusetts State Police Trooper Daniel Quigley said the sprinkler system had been serviced, tested and inspected in mid-July. However, data from the pump system’s digital recorder showed the activation of a jockey pump when a sprinkler head triggered it at 5:02 a.m. on the morning of the fire. It worked for 32 minutes, but it was the subsequent failure of the main pump that hindered the entire system. Both the alarm problem and the water pump failure enabled the blaze to burn intensely in the key early moments, leading to the structure's destruction. In February, State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey ruled the cause of the blaze “undetermined,” and said the sources of ignition either were electronic equipment inside a door, or “smoking materials.” The investigators were unable to pinpoint the origin of the fire with any certainty. The Pillow plans to further reinforce its fire safety systems and rebuild the theater. The organization recently announced it would hold its dance festival outdoors this summer. Read the full story in The Berkshire Eagle.