PITTSFIELD -- An accused "serial arsonist" is being held without bail on 31 counts that include multiple charges of arson, larceny, and breaking and entering in connection with a slew of building and brush fires in South County over the past year.
Stuart P. Zebrowski, 54, of Oldfield Road, Chicopee, was arraigned in Central Berkshire District Court on Friday and was charged with setting 15 brush fires and four building fires since last June.
Zebrowski was arrested on Thursday following a thorough investigation into a number of suspicious brush and building fires, according to police. Following his arrest, Zebrowski admitted to police that he had set a number of fires in the area and broken into a handful of unoccupied homes.
Among the fires he is accused with setting are a vacant apartment building behind Guido's Fresh Mar ketplace on Main Street in Great Barrington and a barn on Department of Conservation and Recreation property on Cold Spring Road in Sandisfield. Zebrowski is also alleged to have set fire to the same building twice in New Marlborough -- a barn on New Marlborough Hill Road that was set ablaze in June and October of 2011.
A white Chevrolet Van was seen in the vicinity of the first New Marlborough fire, according to police, and was observed again near a brush fire in town in January. A check of its license plate led investigators to a Springfield-based linen service with customers in the Berkshires.
Since that time, the GPS historical data and observation made by officers showed Zebrowski to be traveling by or near fires throughout South County.
On March 26, Zebrowski was overheard telling a co-worker "today is going to be a busy day for brush fires." Later that day, brush fires were discovered in Richmond, Great Barrington and Hillsdale, N.Y. Zebrowski was identified as being near the location of each fire, according to police.
The State Fire Marshals Office said Zebrowski may face additional charges in New York.
Police say they also observed Zebrowski breaking into a number of homes, stealing materials from some of them, including a chain saw and push broom. He was also seen stealing gardening supplies from the Kmart in Great Barrington, according to police.
Zebrowski was also charged with three counts of breaking and entering to commit a felony; two counts of larceny from a building; and seven counts of misdemeanor larceny.
On Thursday, state police observed Zebrowski turning onto West Street in Lee, where he stopped in the oncoming traffic lane and threw an object outside the driver's window before continuing southbound. Shortly afterward, a brush fire in the same area was reported.
An hour and a half later, Zebrowski was approached by police at the Xtra Mart in Great Barrington and placed under arrest. A number of incendiary items were found inside his vehicle, including matches, a lighter and tissues, as well as maps of the area.
Once in custody, Zebrowski told police he suffers from anxiety and received medication from a Veterans Administration hospital to treat it. Zebrowski went on to say he goes to houses out of curiosity, and without intentions of hurting anyone. He said he doesn't know why he lit the fires, but that it gives him some type of relief, according to police.
The case was investigated by the state police assigned to the Office of the State Fire Marshal, New York State Police, fire and police departments of Dalton, Egremont, Great Barrington, Lee, Lenox, New Marlborough, Sandisfield, Sheffield and Stockbridge. The investigation also included state police from the Lee Barracks, the Air Wing and Crime Scene Services.
Great Barrington Police Chief William Walsh, whose department had five officers on the case since the March 8 fire, said there was a lot of work put into the investigation and he's pleased with the results.
"It was a great effort and we took a dangerous guy off into custody and solved a lot of cases in south Berkshire County," said Walsh.
State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan in a statement commended the efforts of investigators.
"This was a tremendous effort that has removed a serial arsonist from the community before he progressed from brush fires and vacant buildings to occupied ones," said Coan. "Arson is not a victimless crime even when no one is hurt in a fire; the fear and anxiety communities feel in addition to the loss of property, significantly impacts the quality of life."
Zebrowski's attorney, Jill Sheldon, asked for more time to review the case, so Zebrowski will be held without bail until a dangerousness hearing in Southern Berkshire District Court in Great Barrington on April 12.