A Bogardus Street man watched flames destroy his home on Monday after the fire jumped to his house from the neighboring house – built so close together that you can reach out and touch the neighbor's siding.
But Jim Matthews said he never knew he was in danger until he was alerted by the insistent barking of his dog.
A three-alarm fire ripped through two structures on Bogardus Street Monday afternoon, shattering the Labor Day holiday for this Lovejoy neighborhood.
Dispatchers in the Buffalo Fire Department's alarm office said the fire was reported around 2:30 p.m.
Deputy Fire Commissioner Johnathan Eaton said 14 people at 42 Bogardus St. – seven adults and seven children – were displaced by the fire and will be receiving assistance from the Red Cross. Matthews, who lives alone at 46 Bogardus St. with his rottweiler, Max, said he will receive help from his family.
As Matthews walked around the street near his home in something of a daze, he said it was his dog, whom he affectionately calls "Mad Max," that may have saved his life, since he was on the couch upstairs about to take a nap.
"I never heard him making that kind of noise before. I thought he was ripping into another dog. He was barking like he was in a fight. It wasn't like normal barking. I came down to see what was happening and I saw the right corner of the (house next door) on fire," said Williams. "By the time I saw it, there was nothing I could do."
Crystal Parson lives at 42 Bogardus with her father and two children, their boyfriends and girlfriends, younger children and a young grandson – a total of 11. Her pregnant 20-year-old daughter is expecting "any day now," she said. The family and three other relatives who live in a rear apartment in the house were all displaced by the fire.
"No one was home and I got a call to come home because my house is on fire. When I arrived I saw smoke everywhere," said Parson. "My whole first floor is gone."
She said they had several dogs and cats that they were able to get out of the house
Eaton said the windy day and that fact that the two houses were just a foot apart presented some problems in fighting the blaze, but he called homes' proximity a "characteristic of fighting fires in the City of Buffalo."
"They did an excellent job with only a foot to deal with," said Eaton.
A rear in-law home behind 42 Bogardus, where five people lived, was not damaged by the fire. Parson said her mother, two sisters and two children lived in the rear house.
Neighbor Mary Serwon, at 54 Bogardus St., has an empty lot between her house and the two damaged buildings.
"It was such a nice day so I went out. When I came back home I saw the fire trucks and I couldn't get down the street. I thought it was my house," Serwon said.
Firefighters remained on the scene for nearly two hours, dispatchers said.
The blaze started on the rear corner of the first floor of a small two-story structure at 42 Bogardus before spreading to the second floor and a rear apartment. The larger 2.5-story dwelling at 46 Bogardus then caught fire and suffered the most damage, said dispatchers.
At one point firefighters were ordered out of the structure at 46 Bogardus for fear of collapse.
"We were operating in an attic and the conditions were getting a little bit inhospitable at 46, so the chief just ordered everyone out," said Eaton.
Two firefighters were treated at the scene for non life-threatening injuries, Eaton said.
Damages to 42 Bogardus and 46 Bogardus were estimated at $190,000 to the structures and $115,000 to the contents. Eaton said they are still evaluating the structures, but at this point the homes "do not appear livable."
The cause of the fire is under investigation. Eaton said there is a kitchen in the rear of the home where the fire started.