Morning fire claims two lives, injures two children and leaves family without home

Feb 19, 2016

Two adult males died in a fire early Friday morning at 90 Humber Avenue. One of the men was a father who reentered the burning structure in an attempt to rescue his children.

The fire broke out after 4 a.m. anda Buffalo police officer was the first to respond to the scene. The other victim was found in an upstairs apartment in the multiple-family residence. The ages of the victims were 24 and 49.

City of Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield, Jr.
Credit Avery Schneider / WBFO News

Eight-year-old Treasure Brighon suffered severe burns to most of her body. The girl was taken to Women & Children's Hospital of Buffalo for treatment. On Friday, a transport team from Shriners Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio arrived by jet in Buffalo to transport Brighon to the Shriners burn care unit.

Dr. Kathryn Bass, director of trauma at WCHOB said Brighon’s injuries are life-threatening, but her prognosis for survival is good.

"She's stable. She's doing well, from that point of view. She'll need some subsequent care at the Shiners for what appears to be approximately a 90% surface area burn to her body," said Bass.

Bass said Brighon was comfortable throughout her hospitalization and unaware of pain while in a managed state of sedation. She says her positive outlook is due to three critical factors.

"It's a very serious injury and it is life-threatening. However, she got immediate treatment and transport to our hospital and the three major factors that give her a good outcome were attended to: her breathing, her circulation and her transport to the burn center. She certainly has operations ahead of her to remove some of the burned skin and tissue, but I think her chances are good at the point," said Bass.

Bass said the Brighon has a long recovery ahead, including multiple operations to remove burned skin and tissue.

Three-year-old Demetrius Thomas Johnson suffered smoke inhalation and was taken to WCHOB as well, where he is undergoing treatment in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. The children's brother, 15-month-old Demaris Johnson and their mother, Tempest Thomas, were also transported to WCHOB, and released without injury. Thomas was unable to accompany her daughter on the return flight to Cincinnati, due to space restrictions. WCHOB is helping facilitate her travel with gas cards.

Two firefighters were also taken to the hospital for treatment of minor burns and soon after released.

Shortly after returning from visiting the family at WCHOB on Friday afternoon, City of Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield, Jr. said the blaze was still under investigation by fire marshals.

Whitfield would not comment on reports that the house was considered "unsafe" by some neighbors who alleged blame on a New York City-based landlord. He said all fires are investigated for the possibility of arson. When asked whether criminal charges for neglect were being considered, Whitfield said, “We have no information about that right now. That’s part of our investigation, again. As we develop that information, we will act appropriately in terms of charging people or identifying persons that might be at fault.”

Whitfield said the department's investigation would review if there are any outstanding housing violations. He also noted that the building’s structure was severely compromised as a result of the blaze and was unstable on Friday afternoon. Fire marshals on-scene were being methodical and careful in their review, and had yet to determine the condition of electrical systems and whether or not smoke detectors were present and working when the fire began.

“In any building, any time there’s a fire, to be forewarned, to have an opportunity to safely evacuate yourself and others is what we would hope for,” said Whitfield. “In this instance, we’re not sure of what the circumstances were. There are times when even having operational smoke detectors, depending on the circumstances, that might not allow you to effectively evacuate.”

A large backhoe arrived on-scene not long after the blaze was contained. Whitfield said it would be used to inspect the building piece by piece, and that no demolition would be ordered until investigators felt the cause had been sufficiently determined.

Whitfield offered the prayers of the city to the family of the victims. He said it’s a trying time for all involved.

“Any time we lose a person in a fire, any time we lose life, it’s very devastating. Not just to the family, but to the community, and to the first responders who are there to save them. So this is being borne very heavily by everybody involved.”

Donations for the family are being coordinated by the office of Masten District Common Council Member Ulysees O. Wingo, Sr. and Pastor Charles Walker of Mount Hope Community Church. Information is available on the Facebook page of Coucil Member Wingo. Council Member Wingo can also be reached at 716-851-5145. Pastor Walker can be reached directly at 716-602-6676.

A central depository of donated items is being kept at Mount Hope Community Church at 1326 Broadway. Pastor Walker is available to receive or pick up donations.

Clothing and shoes needed for the three children of the family are:

- Girls size 14 clothes, Size 4.5-5 shoe

- Boys size 4-5 toddler clothes, Size 11.5-12 children shoe

- Boys size 3 toddler clothes, Size 7 baby shoe