BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Firefighters fought flames for hours at a vacant East Side building early Monday morning.
Around 3 a.m., firefighters responded to the scene at Paderewski Drive and Fillmore Avenue.
The fire was out after two hours, but first responders continued to work on the scene after extinguishing the flames.
Shortly after 5:30 a.m. the front of the building collapsed.
Investigators are still looking for the cause of the fire, but fire officials tell News 4 it was likely not an accident. “I would call it suspicious but I really don’t know,” said Division Chief Peter Kertzie. “It wasn’t a family cooking on a stove and it wasn’t someone burning a candle, it wasn’t the things that people sometimes can do when it’s occupied. It was vacant, it was boarded up. There’s only so many causes that it could be, so certainly it’s suspicious.”
The house next to the vacant building was also damaged by the fire. The Red Cross is now helping four adults and two children who lived there, according to fire officials.
Paderewski Drive and Fillmore Avenue were both closed off at that intersection, but both have now reopened for traffic.
The building that burned was a 15 room former rooming house with a store front on the first floor. Throughout its history, it had been home to a cigar shop, a convenience store, a fruit and vegetable shop, and more. Now, most of the building is rubble.
“It’s a shame,” said David Franczyk, the Fillmore District Council Member. “Whenever you see something like that, it’s a loss for the neighborhood.”
There was a For Sale sign on the front of the building, but the building had actually just been sold.
Broadway-Fillmore Neighborhood Housing Services had bought the property and planned to invest around $900,000 renovating the building to create five apartments and a coffee house. The group, which bought the property at auction, finished paying for it on Thursday.
The Broadway-Fillmore N.H.S. construction analyst who was surveying the damage after the fire on Monday morning tells News 4 it would likely be too expensive to try to rebuild the old building now, but the group’s executive director, Stephen Karnath, says he plans to meet with the architect to see if any bit of the old building can be saved.
“Right now, it feels like a death in the family,” Karnath said, “And I think we’re going to need a little bit of time to let things settle and see what’s possible.”
It is unclear at this point whether Broadway-Fillmore N.H.S. will be hiring crews to finish demolition or whether the city will do the job and send the owner the bill.