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Buffalo firefighters mark 30th anniversary of deadly explosion

Photo from Fire Rescue Magazine

Today marks the anniversary of one of the most tragic days in the history of the Buffalo Fire Department. Thirty years ago tonight, a propane tank explosion inside a warehouse at North Division and Grosvenor streets, killing five Buffalo Firefighters.

On December 27, 1983 at 8:23 p.m., Buffalo firefighters were called to a North Division Street warehouse.  Inside the building was a leaking, 500-pound propane tank that fell off a forklift as an employee tried to move it.  The tank sparked the deadly blast felt across parts of the city.

"I lived in North Buffalo at that time. The house shook, literally, when this happened," said Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield.

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield talks with reporters about the 30th anniversary of the North Division Street explosion that killed five city firefighters.

Whitfield wasn't  a member of the fire department at the time, but talked with reporters Friday about the tragic night. Whitfield said he was concerned for family members that lived closer to blast site and went directly to scene.

"As we headed in that direction, we saw ashes literally falling from out the sky from a long way away," said Commissioner Whitfield.  "Upon arrival, it was like a war zone."

The huge explosion leveled a four-story warehouse and other nearby buildings, killing the fivefighters who responded from Ladder 5. It also killed two residents and injured a dozen firefighters.

Buffalo Firefighters will gather at a Friday event to remember their fallen comrades on a date that marks the single largest loss of life for the Buffalo Fire Department.