Brian Bull, Danny Lazi and Takari Brown never thought they would become heroes.
But they did by running through the front door of a three-story apartment building at 880 Elmwood Ave. as it was being destroyed by fire at about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.
They furiously knocked on doors on the first and second floors, and got the last of the tenants still in the building out just before the front porch collapsed into flaming rubble.
Firefighters said four people lived in the building.
Dr. Victor Filadora initially ran to the front door after spotting flames at the corner of the porch as he and his wife, Stacey, pushed their children in a stroller on their way to a nearby restaurant. Filodora went onto the porch and knocked, but he left when the floor of the porch became extremely hot.
As Stacey Filadora called 911 at 6:31 p.m., her husband, a Roswell Park Cancer Institute doctor, ran around to the back of the house, where a first-floor tenant was running out with her pet dog.
Bull, who initially ran into the house on his own before being joined by Lazi and Brown, went up to the third-floor flat only to find the young couple who had moved in Tuesday were not home. He, Lazi and Brown got a couple out of a second-floor flat and rushed out of the front door just before the porch collapsed.
The fire in the house, across the street from the old Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church at Elmwood and Lafayette, caused $300,000 damage to the structure and $150,000 to the contents. Adjacent houses at 778 Elmwood and 884 Elmwood both suffered $2,500 exposure damage, according to the Buffalo Fire Department. Two cats belonging to the residents of the third-floor flat were listed as missing.
A large crowd gathered around the burning structure until crews wrapped up operations after 9 p.m.
Lazi, who works at the Hardcore Tattoo and Body Piercing Service at 906 Elmwood, said that when he and Bull and Brown came out of the store he had initially thought “someone’s barbecuing” down the street. “But then it became clear there was way too much smoke, and we ran to see if anyone was inside the house.”
Red Cross officials went to the scene to arrange for temporary housing for the renters affected by the fire, none of whom would talk to reporters after the incident.