BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A 37-year-old Buffalo firefighter died battling a four-alarm structure fire throughout the day Wednesday on Main Street in Buffalo’s Theatre District, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said.
Thursday, that firefighter was identified as Jason Arno, a three-year member of the department.
The fire began around 10 a.m. at 745 Main St., a three-story commercial structure owned by former Congressman Chris Jacobs, according to the Buffalo Fire Department. The ground floor of the structure was home to DC Theatricks, a costume shop.
Former Congressman Jacobs issued the following statement to News 4:
I am so incredibly saddened by the loss of this brave Buffalo firefighter earlier today. My deepest condolences and prayers are with the firefighter’s family and friends and with his Buffalo Fire Department family. Out of respect to the firefighter and his family, I am not going to be making any further comment at this time.Chris Jacobs
Workers were reportedly using torches on the exterior of the building, which may have been the fire’s cause, Buffalo Fire Commissioner William Renaldo said during a Wednesday evening press conference. The torches could have caused heat to transfer through holes in the mortar to the inside wall, leading to the blaze growing due to the presence of paper and other incendiaries in the building, Renaldo said.
Arno’s cause of death is not yet known, but Renaldo said he was in the area of an interior collapse and unable to be retrieved when firefighters evacuated. His name is not yet being released. No other injuries were reported.
Renaldo said what appeared to be an explosion in videos seen on social media may have been a backdraft.
Mayor Brown said Wednesday night flags at city-owned buildings, including Niagara Square, will fly at half-staff.
An emergency demolition of the structure was ordered, however, Mayor Brown told News 4 on Thursday that the fire’s investigation should still take several more days, after which, the building will be demolished. The full interview can be seen here:
Firefighters had to be evacuated from the building due to the collapse that happened shortly after first responders arrived. They had no contact with the trapped firefighter after the collapse, and the instability of the building hindered their rescue efforts, Renaldo said during an afternoon press conference.
Police and firefighters paused what they were doing just before 2 p.m. and were seen standing side by side.
Mayor Brown issued the following statement regarding the firefighter’s death:
This is a heartbreaking day for our city. Early this morning, a 37-year-old Buffalo Firefighter showed his bravery and commitment to fire service by putting on his uniform and carrying out his sworn duty to protect and serve the residents of this city. Today, he lost his life protecting others. I share my deepest sympathies with everyone who knew and loved him. I ask all City residents to keep his family, and the entire Buffalo Fire Department, in your prayers during this difficult time.Mayor Byron Brown
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz advised those traveling downtown to avoid the area. Buffalo Police also posted a similar notice.
As of Thursday at 6:52 a.m., the following streets remain closed due to the fire:
-Main Street (E. Tupper to Goodell)
-Washington Street (E. Tupper to Goodell)
Two videos of the fire, taken by News 4’s Sarah Minkewicz, can be seen below.
The fire is believed to have been smoldering for some time before 911 was called, Renaldo said, later noting “there is no public health concern” as a result of the fire.
Buffalo Public Schools released a statement just before Noon, saying “immediate and appropriate safety and health measures were taken to seal impacted schools near the scene of the fire.”
“All intake outlets for ventilation have been closed and all classroom air purifiers have been powered on,” the school district wrote. “District safety and health personnel are on site at the schools. Masks have been made available to all staff and students. The District will be providing additional updates throughout the day.”
The full Wednesday evening press conference can be viewed below.