- Department of Fire Services
Media Contact for Jacob’s Pillow Fire Started Near Entrance; Cause Undetermined Due to Extensive Damage
Jennifer Mieth, Public Information Officer
BECKET — State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey, Becket Fire Chief Paul Mikaniewicz and Becket Police Chief Kristopher McDonough said that after an extensive investigation the cause of the November 17, 2020 fire at the Jacob’s Pillow performance venue is officially undetermined. 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 located 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.
State Fire Marshal Ostroskey said, “In Massachusetts we follow the National Fire Protection Association standard for fire investigation which requires us to first determine where the fire started and then to systematically eliminate all possible causes at that location.” He added, “When we cannot eliminate all but one most likely cause, the standard requires us to classify the fire as undetermined.”
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.
Fire Chief Mikaniewicz said, “The delayed notification coupled with the failure of the fire sprinkler pump caused extensive damage before the fire department arrived. This fire had a grip on the building before we were even notified of the fire.”
Members of the Becket Fire and Police Departments and State Police assigned to the Office of the State Fire Marshal jointly investigated this fire. This investigation has concluded. The insurance company is following up on the separate issues pertaining to the sprinkler systems.