A 62-year-old man died of apparent smoke inhalation in a house fire on Peoria Avenue in Cheektowaga early Monday afternoon, while family members led his 95-year-old father and a dog to safety.
Bernard Fiume was found dead at the top of the stairs of the two-story brick home at 93 Peoria Ave., after firefighters from several companies extinguished the flames and had entered the house.
Jason Stoll, first assistant chief with Doyle Volunteer Hose Company No. 2, said the cause of death was still uncertain, but a family member said the victim was not badly burned and had passed out because of smoke inhalation. The victim also was found away from the main source of the fire, indicating he was trying to get out, said his relative, who asked not to be identified.
The house, in a neighborhood not far from the intersection of Harlem Road and William Street, was a “total loss,” Stoll said, with the back caving in as well as part of the front, where a section of the roof collapsed. Fire also swept through the garage, destroying two cars.
“Pretty much the whole upper half is done, and the sunroom in back is done,” he said.
The fire was reported about 1 p.m. Stoll said it appeared the blaze started upstairs, “possibly in one of the bedrooms.” Fire investigators were still trying to determine the cause.
The victim lived in the 70-year-old house with his elderly father, Leonard, who built the house himself after buying it from a Sears Roebuck & Co. catalog after he returned from military service in World War II. The older Fiume had been in the home since then, and was still reluctant to leave the site after the fire, his relative said.
The relative said he and other family members had come to the house to help with a plumbing problem when he smelled the smoke. He said he tried to go upstairs to get the younger Fiume, but the smoke was too intense, so he retreated and called for help while keeping the elderly Fiume from re-entering the home.