When Todd Reimers, chef at Elmwood Avenue’s Epic restaurant, got word just after 3:30 p.m. Monday that his nearby apartment was burning, his first thought was of his dog, a yellow Labrador retriever named Django.
He sprinted the four blocks north to 571 Elmwood, a large house between Anderson Place and Lexington Avenue that had been converted into five apartments.
“By the time I got home to get the dog, there was smoke billowing out of the top apartment through the front window and a lot of the glass had been broken out already,” Reimers said.
Fortunately, a downstairs tenant and Epic’s manager had let Django out of the apartment, where damage from the fire was extensive.
“Django’s safe,” said Reimers. “That was my first priority, to make sure that she was OK. Things are replaceable.”
But Reimers lost most of his belongings such as clothes, a shoe collection, stereo, TV, photos of his daughter – “pretty much everything that I own with the exception of the clothes on my back and my dog,” he said.
The apartment is unlivable and the power was turned off, he said.
“Basically everything is piled up in the middle of the living room right now in shambles,” he said.
Volunteers from the American Red Cross were called to assist Reimers and seven other adult occupants of the home. He was given a voucher for a night at Comfort Inn, while Django is staying with Reimers’ aunt and uncle in East Aurora.
He said he needs to stay close to the restaurant because the time around New Year’s is full of reservations. “At least I have a place for this evening,” he said.
Reimers moved to Buffalo eight years ago, and has been chef for almost four years at Epic, where he specializes in an “innovative regional” cuisine that changes depending on the season.
Reimers said the fire was caused by a candle left burning by the tenant in the apartment directly below his.
“Apparently he forgot to blow his candle out before he went to work and that was the problem,” he said.
Buffalo fire officials estimated damage at $50,000 to the building and $75,000 to its contents.
After the fire, Reimers went back to work, to prepare for a busy upcoming New Year’s Eve night.
“At least nobody was injured, that’s obviously the most important thing,” he said late Monday from Epic.