Buffalo State professor dies in apartment fire

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Investigators are combing through every piece of evidence to uncover what sparked a fire in a Buffalo apartment building that claimed the life of a history and social studies professor from Buffalo State College.

The fire started around 9 p.m. Wednesday in a fourth floor apartment before spreading to the fifth floor apartment above it.

“I was most worried about my life,” said Dennis Carlton. He and nearly 60 others were evacuated from the Commodore Apartment building in Buffalo Wednesday night. “I was worried about being on oxygen and plus oxygen tanks blow up so it was a scary feeling for me.”

At first many tenants thought it was a fire drill, but after inhaling a burning smell, some like Moose Rehmani got out quickly.

Rehmani said, “I went out that last stairwell. It was smoky coming down. I think I was coming down a little bit later than everyone else. It was just the firefighters coming up with their masks.”

felix armfield

Buffalo firefighters worked tirelessly to rescue everyone, but Felix Armfield, a professor at Buffalo State who lived in the apartment where the fire began, later succumbed to his injuries at the hospital.

Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield said, “He was a large individual, very labor intensive to get him out, very tough to get him out of there. They did a great job getting him out, probably about 10 guys carried him out, got him outside and worked on him and tried to save him.”

Armfield, 51, died at Erie County Medical Center. The college released a statement saying the community is deeply saddened by Armfield’s death. He had worked at Buffalo State since 2000 and was on a number of campus committees. Armfield was also extremely active in the Western New York community and was well liked by his students.

“His students were the primary beneficiaries of his scholarship,” said Andrew Nicholls, professor and chair of the History and Social Studies Education Department. “Many of his students commented on the depth of his knowledge and his willingness to provide individual attention to each student. He brought a commitment to sharing the lived experience of ordinary Americans to his scholarship and teaching. He was a valued member of our faculty, and we are deeply saddened by this tragic news.”

Whitfield said he called a three-alarm fire because it was difficult getting water to the top and multiple firefighters were needed.

“Very labor intensive. We had to stretch a tremendous amount of hose lines, we had to evacuate people, so there was a number of assignments that had to, we had to make sure that we had the appropriate personnel.”

Five families have been displaced and are being assisted by the Red Cross.

Investigators are still trying to determine what started the blaze

“It’s going to be an exhaustive investigation,” Whitfield said.

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