© 2024 Western New York Public Broadcasting Association

140 Lower Terrace
Buffalo, NY 14202

Mailing Address:
Horizons Plaza P.O. Box 1263
Buffalo, NY 14240-1263

Buffalo Toronto Public Media | Phone 716-845-7000
WBFO Newsroom | Phone: 716-845-7040
Your NPR Station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Donate Today Banner

Investigators 'very hopeful' they will determine cause of fire that killed firefighter Jason Arno

An ATF investigations vehicle is parked in the theater district in Buffalo
Steve Kraus
The ATF is part of the investigating team working to determine the cause of the fire that killed firefighter Jason Arno, 37.

The investigation into the cause of the fire that killed Buffalo firefighter Jason Arno is ongoing and is likely to continue into next week, say investigators who have been working on scene.

Over 100 interviews have been conducted as part of the investigation so far, said Walter Shaw, branch chief of the National Response Team of the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

“This structure did sustain prolonged burning, which affects a lot of different fire patterns and things that we're looking at," Shaw said. "But we are very hopeful that we will find a specific cause to the fire."

Speaking Tuesday, six days after the fire at 745 Main St. in downtown Buffalo, Shaw explained that a computer fire model has been created with help from a fire research lab in Maryland to better establish how the fire progressed and grew.

Investigators lead a black dog near the scene of the fire.
Steve Kraus
An accelerant and explosives detection canine has been deployed on the site, which Shaw says is a common and routine investigation technique employed by the ATF
Heavy machinery outside the remnants of 745 Main Street
Steve Kraus
Heavy machinery outside the remnants of 745 Main St., which was destroyed by fire March 1

The first level and basement level of the structure has been excavated and investigators have removed several items of evidence for closer inspection, Shaw told reporters.

An accelerant and explosives detection canine has also been deployed on site, which Shaw says is a common and routine investigation technique employed by the ATF.

Of the 100 interviews completed as part of the investigation so far, Shaw listed the first responding firefighters, the 911 caller, workers on scene doing some work at the time, the building owner, and the electric and gas providers to see if there was a history of issues with the building itself.

“And we're continuing to do neighborhood canvases to collect any video that may show events leading up to the fire and after the fire, so that we can create an accurate timeline of the fire events,” Shaw added.

Former Western New York Congressman Chris Jacobs has owned the building since December.

Buffalo Fire Commissioner William Renaldo has previously said that his investigators wanted to interview workers who were seen in the vicinity of the building, possibly working with a torch.

Permits are required for some types of work to be carried out on commercial buildings in the City of Buffalo, and Mayor Byron Brown has previously stated that there were no active permits in place for the building at the time of the fire.

But speaking Tuesday, Renaldo said it was too early in the investigation to determine if anyone could be held to account for a lack of active permits.

“We're not sure what permits were required, or if any permits were required, and by whom, so it’s too early in the investigation to determine that,” Renaldo said.

The blaze killed firefighter Jason Arno, 37. Renaldo said an evacuation order was issued to firefighters “a little over a minute” prior to Arno pressing his mayday button.

The investigation into the cause of the fire is being conducted by the ATF, the Buffalo Fire Department, New York State Fire, and the Buffalo Police Department. The New York City Fire Department has assisted with the stabilization of the structure.