Pittsfield supermarket fire leaves food desert in nearby community

PITTSFIELD – Harry’s Supermarket on Wahconah Street in Pittsfield has been serving customers in the city’s north end for more than a century. When the popular grocery store caught fire on Tuesday night, it caused a great inconvenience for many residents of that neighborhood.

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“We were sitting on the porch and noticed smoke coming from the roof of the building,” said Kathy Reilly, who was visiting her mother when the fire broke out.

She called 911 at 6:30 p.m. The owner had just closed the shop and left for the day.

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“A lot of younger guys haven’t been there for years, but we’ve been shopping there. Engine 5 is literally right around the corner,” said Deputy Pittsfield Fire Chief Neil Myers.

When the first alarm was called in, Myers and many other fire department members were at City Hall. They were celebrating the swearing-in of four new firefighters – including Myers’ son.

“We know the building well inside, but things do change,” said Myers. “In supermarkets, they put things all over the place on the floors, different obstacles that we may run into that challenge us.”

Authorities believe the fire broke out by the deli counter in the back of the store and quickly spread, causing extensive heat, smoke, and water damage throughout the building.

“You could see there was a lot of flammable stuff in there that actually caused it to come over here,” said Sandra Gregory, a regular at Harry’s. “I was always coming to Harry’s a lot to be able to get my Lactaid milk, because whether it was winter or the heat, this was the closest place for me to be able to use my food stamps.”

“It’s really a great local grocery store – especially for people who don’t have the ability to drive – and it’s really convenient,” Reilly added.

With Harry’s shut down for a while, it creates a food desert in the north part of Pittsfield. City officials were already discussing temporary remedies by late afternoon.

Thanks to the quick response from firefighters, Harry’s Supermarket building remains structurally intact. That means when it comes time to reopen, it should be easier for the owner, something he tells NewsChannel 13 he definitely intends to do.