Series of arsons destroy property in Pittsfield

PITTSFIELD, Mass. (NEWS10) – Pittsfield police said they have a man in custody after a series of fires were ignited in the city.

A series of random fires kept the Pittsfield Fire Department busy Tuesday morning. Three out of the four fires were put out before they became a problem, but now one family is left stranded.

“I woke to my oldest daughter screaming, ‘Ma, your car is on fire,’” Wendy Wendell said.

Wendell ran outside at 3 a.m. Tuesday to find her four kids watching her 2006 Mazda CX-7 burning hot enough to melt the siding on their house.

Pittsfield police arrested Jeffrey Benoit for starting the fires. Wendell’s son, William Wendell, went to high school with Benoit.

“He was a funny guy,” William said. “Everybody loved Jeffrey. That’s why him being a suspect, or caught in the act, is really surprising to me.”

William said he hasn’t seen Benoit in at least five years, and they never had any bad blood between them, which raised more questions about Benoit’s motivation for starting the fires.

“I’m very surprised that anybody would go up and down and terrorize the neighborhood and spread terror like that,” William said. “Setting fires and freaking people out.”

Wendy’s car was totaled by the fire. It also completely destroyed her husband’s two passenger boat that was nearby.

No other property was damaged, and no one was injured. The Wendells have questions, but they are thankful that it didn’t turn out worse.

“I have insurance,” Wendy said. “I can replace my car, but I can’t replace my kids.”

“Stuff could have happened,” William said. “He could have been under the influence of something and just made a poor decision. I’m sorry for Jeffrey on that part.”

Benoit was arrested and charged with two counts of Arson, Burning a Motor Vehicle, and two counts of Burning Property. He is due back in court Wednesday morning.


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