BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Fire crews battled an intense blaze that damaged two homes in South Buffalo, early Friday morning.
Buffalo firefighters were called to the homes on Hillside Avenue near Dismonda Street just after 4 a.m.
Fire officials say the two-alarm fire started on the upper floor of an occupied structure at 38 Hillside Avenue. Flames and smoke engulfed the roof which partially collapsed. A man was inside the burning structure and was safely evacuated.
The home at 38 Hillside Avenue had extensive damage estimated to be more than $215,000.
The intensity of the fire also caused exposure damage to a second occupied home at 40 Hillside Avenue. Damage to that structure is estimated to be $30,000.
For Loretta Jackson, owner of 40 Hillside Avenue, the fire caused some tense moments as she smelled smoke, called police, tried to warn her neighbor that his house was on fire, and then had to evacuate her own three children from her house.
Jackson told Reporter Ed Reilly she has no homeowners insurance but is thankful neither she nor her kids were injured.
Fire officials believe fireworks are the cause.
"Witnesses say there were two groups firing 'roman candles' at each other," said Buffalo Fire Commissioner William Renaldo.
A large number of firework remnants littered the street across from the two damaged houses.
Neighbors tell 7 Eyewitness News that fireworks were being shot-off all through the night. "In fact, my wife came out around one or two in the morning and yelled at them 'to knock it off," said William Tucker, a neighbor and member of the Buffalo Fire Department.
A City of Buffalo surveillance camera is in the area. Footage taken by that camera is now being reviewed by fire investigators to determine who is responsible.
BREAKING: Buffalo fire officials are investigating the cause of an overnight two alarm fire on Hillside Avenue & if fireworks played a role. Damage is estimated at over $200,000.— Buffalo Police Dept (@BPDAlerts) July 3, 2020
Despite the extensive damage, officials say there were no injuries.
However, this fire brings back some sad memories for the Buffalo Fire Department. "Actually, this was very similar to a fire that took the life of one of our firefighters, Michael Sequin, 23-years ago tomorrow," explained Buffalo Fire Commissioner Renaldo.
Firefighter Sequin died on July 4, 1997 after becoming trapped in an attic fire that was believed started by a flying firework.
The Buffalo Fire Department posted the following information about Sequin's line-of-duty death:
"On July 4th, 1997 Firefighter Michael Seguin of Engine Co.33 3rd Platoon , Died in the Line of Duty.
At 22:40 hours, Engine 33 was dispatched to Box 99, their home box ,to 234 Kehr St. just down the street from quarters for a house fire. While advancing a handline in the attic, FF Seguin experienced an issue and told his back up Firefighter he had to go. With conditions rapidly deteriorating, the backup Firefighter also became disoriented, he was heard by other members in the attic and was removed. After the fire was knocked down crews re-entered the attic and found FF Seguin unconscious. He was removed and life-saving efforts were immediately begun.
Valiant resuscitation efforts failed and FF Seguin was pronounced deceased at Erie County Medical Center.
Firefighter Seguin was 30-years-old and a 4-year veteran of the Buffalo Fire Department.
He was survived by his fiance and baby.
His father diligently fought for and raised money for the Buffalo Fire Department's First Thermal Imaging Camera, which was placed on Engine Co.33."
With hot, dry conditions this Fourth of July holiday weekend, Commissioner Renaldo is urging people not to use illegal fireworks (anything that flies in the sky). Only ground sparklers are allowed in Erie County.
In addition, the commissioner is recommending wetting down roofs on homes, garages, and sheds because rain gutters are now filled with easily flammable dried twigs and leaves.