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Six Buffalo firefighters escape deli fire after becoming trapped

Six Buffalo firefighters became trapped while battling a fire in a deli on East Delavan Avenue Friday evening. All escaped on their own after putting out a “Mayday” call for help.

The deli was destroyed, and police are investigating the possibility that there was a robbery at the Save ($) Plus Deli, 912 E. Delavan Ave., just before the fire and that the fire might have been intentionally set.

Buffalo firefighters were called at about 8:20 p.m. and found the building fully engulfed in flames.

Six members of Rescue 1, who were first on the scene, ran into the building when they were told someone might be trapped. They put out the “Mayday” call when they had trouble getting out of the smoke-filled building.

All six were “shaken but otherwise all right,” Fire Commissioner Garnell W. Whitfield Jr. said at the scene.

Because of the initial report that people were trapped, a second alarm was issued, bringing a number of extra units to the scene.

No civilians were found in the building.

Whitfield conservatively estimated damage to the one-story structure at $100,000 and damage to its contents to be at least $100,000.

He said firefighters found the building “loaded with material that fueled the fire.” The commissioner said the six men of Rescue I had trouble getting around inside the building “because it was stacked full of merchandise.”

Even an hour after the first fire call went out, waves of gray-white smoke kept pouring out the top of the building, with its roof completely burned away.

About 60 firefighters from 20 companies continued watering down the building for several hours. When flames flared up at the rear of the building, high-pressured hoses poured water there. Fire officials made sure civilians were well away from the building so they would not be hit by any of the building material that the hoses kept knocking onto Cambridge Avenue.

The deli is at the corner of Cambridge Avenue and is separated from the Miracle Tabernacle Holiness Church by a grassy lot. Firemen managed to keep flames and sparks from damaging the church.

Dozens of nearby residents came out to watch the fire crews. A half dozen fire trucks were parked around the building and hoses filled East Delavan Avenue on both sides of the burning structure.

Fire officials said they expected crews would remain at the scene well into the morning hours.

The unidentified owner of the deli was being questioned by police about the report of a possible robbery.

email: mgryta@buffnews.com