Man saves friend’s son, but was unable to save his friend

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – A heroic neighbor saved his friend’s 5-year-old son from the massive blaze on Regina Place in Buffalo on Thursday, but was unable to save his friend from the flames.

Lewis Varner, Jr. says the 56-year-old father, who he couldn’t save, leaves behind several children, siblings, and a dad who used to work for the Buffalo Police Department.

RELATED | See our original report on the tragic fire here

Varner says Tony Miles lived with his youngest son. Varner says he’s known Tony’s father for 20 years and this is the second son he’s lost. Tony is described as a “number one dad” who did everything for his children.

Varner says he just keeps wishing he could have saved his friend, too.

“I’m feeling bad for Tony. He was a great person, a great father, and a great human being. He was the best,” Varner said. “Tony was always with his son. He loved his son real, real good and I was so happy I could save his son. I wish I could have saved Tony.”

When Varner saw the house going up in flames on Thursday, he ran to the back of the house and saw the boy at a window.

“When I saw him up there, I told him, ‘Just jump! I’ll catch you!’ He was too scared; he didn’t want to do it,” he said.

Rather than waiting for the fire department to arrive, Varner got a ladder from his garage, set it against the burning home and climbed up to the window. He says he tore the screen off and snatched the boy from the burning home.

He said, “While the house was burning, [I] got him out, pulled him down. But I couldn’t get his father.”

Once firefighters were able to get past the flames and get inside the home, they found Tony’s body in a second floor bathroom. He was brought to Erie County Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. The boy was checked out and said to be okay, thanks to Lewis Varner.

Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield said, “He absolutely put his life on the line, risked everything to save this young kid. And the kid’s alive thanks to the efforts of this neighbor.”

But Varner said, “I don’t feel like a hero. I just helped a neighbor out.”

Fire investigators on the scene Friday say the fire is still under investigation. It’s not clear how the fire, which caused $125,000 in damage, started in the two-family home.

News 4 was told Tony’s girlfriend lived in the lower apartment. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.

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