Buffalo Fire probes rash of West Side fires

Oct 2, 2014

A series of fires broke out on Buffalo's West Side early Thursday morning. Three Buffalo firefighters and a Buffalo police officer suffered minor injuries. 

A rash of rubbish and clothing bin fires were set off sometime after 4:30 a.m. Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield said six blazes occurred on Grant Street, Massachusetts Avenue, 19th & West Ferry, Danforth and Forest Avenue. 

Grocery-deli on Grant Street was the scene of a blaze.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

"We're very concerned about these fires.  They put responders and the public at risk," said Commissioner Whitfield.

One of those fires hit a grocery/deli store at 472 Grant Street near Forest Avenue.

WBFO's Eileen Buckley spoke with the store's operator, Omar Mohmand, who is from Somalia. Mohmand, who owns the grocery store and lives upstairs, said he believes the blaze started in a clothing bin next to the building.

"The fire started from the bottom there. I don't know who did it, but the neighbor did yell at me, knock the door and ask me 'wake up, wake up,'" said Mohmand as he stood outside his charred store.

Fire damage on Grant Street.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Mohmand was rescued by a Buffalo police officer. That officer was treated for smoke inhalation at ECMC, but was released. 

Police Officer Nicholas Militello his partner departed from one the rubbish fires on 19th Street and Forest and were headed up Grant Street when they spotted a house on fire at Grant and Pooley Place with flames coming out the sides.

"Started to kick down the front door, run up the stairs," said Miletello.  "As soon as we got inside the apartment we approached a gentleman who seemed to be startled from his sleep. We notified him what was going on, that the house was on fire, that he needed to leave the premises."

The officers went through the  apartment to make sure there was no one else inside.  "I ran up to the attic to make sure there wasn't anyone up there," stated Officer Militello. "I started feeling the effects of the smoke."

Two of the firefighters were injured in the store front blaze, but a spokesman from ECMC tells WBFO news they were treated and released. A third firefighter was treated at the scene for heat exhaustion.

Fire marshals are at the scene investigating and combing through the debris, but were not allow to comment on the blaze. 

"Our marshals are out investigating these aggressively -- looking for leads and developing leads and we like to report that we do have some very good leads at this time. We're hopeful  to make an arrest in this case.  We need the publics help," stated Commissioner Whitfield.

Foam from fire fighting and debris along Grant Street.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Mohmand tells WBFO News he has been in the United States living in Buffalo for the last three years.  That area of Grant Street is now home to a growing number of Somalia immigrants who are seeking a new life in the city.