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Controversy over firefighter training on West Ferry Street

Posted at 6:11 PM, Aug 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-20 18:11:24-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — W. Ferry Street is home to a few vacant buildings. Firefighters are taking advantage of the empty space to do some training, which has sparked a controversy.

Firefighters frequently use condemned homes and buildings that are set to be demolished to practice life-saving techniques.

"Any time they can experience training their team in a space that's not yet on fire they can do their job better so we welcome them," said owner Rachel Heckl.

Heather Connor lives nearby and says she is shocked by what firefighters are doing.

"Ripping up the roofs, ripping up the entire roof of the garage building and they do not have legal standing to do that," said Connor.

The buildings are on the National Historic Registry, according to Connor. She's involved in a lawsuit to stop the demolition of one of the buildings.

"Every time you demolish one thing and make a parking lot or a new building, it erodes the character," said Connor.

The plan is to make an art center and affordable housing with the space, according to Heckl.

Connor says she called the city's permit office who said Heckl does not have the permit needed to demolish the building. While Heckl claims letting the fire department train is completely legal.

"Everything that happens in this space is can invite the fire department to train on your own home if you wanted to," said Heckl.

7 Eyewitness News Reporter Taylor Epps went to the city's permit office to clear things up. They told her Heckl does not have the demolition permit, but this does not stop her from allowing firefighters to do their training.

"They're taking a little bit of a risk because if they were to have damage from the firefighters' training, and they do do damage on those structures, they would have to put things back in place," said Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Permits Lou Petrucci.

Petrucci says Connor's lawsuit is the only thing preventing Heckl from getting the demolition permit. Heckl is hoping to be approved so she can continue her project.

Connor and other neighbors have lost in court twice and have now asked to have the case re-argued. They are waiting to hear back from the courts.