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Firefighter battles for life after chimney falls on him

Long before Mark Reed was a Buffalo firefighter, he was a volunteer firefighter in West Seneca who was known for waking up in the middle of the night to answer calls.

It is that kind of passion for the job that his colleagues, friends and family recalled Monday as Reed was fighting for his life in a hospital intensive care unit.

Reed, of Engine 31, was fighting an arson fire Sunday night at a vacant house at 120 Wende St. when the brick chimney collapsed, injuring him severely.

Reed, 36, a decorated 10-year veteran of the Buffalo Fire Department, suffered severe head injuries, multiple rib fractures, a punctured lung, massive bone and muscle injuries, multiple facial fractures and injuries to his lower right leg.

Fire officials said he was in "very, very critical condition" Monday in Erie County Medical Center.

"He suffered a very devastating injury," said Buffalo Fire Commissioner Michael Lombardo. "The brick work pretty much hit him almost square in the face, and it came down."

Reed underwent surgery overnight and remained heavily sedated Monday in the medical center.

An ECMC trauma surgeon, Dr. Krishan Raghavendran, said injuries to Reed's lower right leg were so severe that he and his medical team had to work to stop the hemorrhaging.

A vascular surgeon was called in to evaluate the blood flow, but Raghavendran said Monday that it looks as if blood is flowing to his right foot.

Doctors also placed a catheter in Reed's brain to monitor the pressure, and he was given units of blood. A CT scan also revealed a brain injury.

"His prognosis is uncertain," said Raghavendran, adding that the upcoming days will be a very crucial time in determining his condition.

The mood Monday at the firehouse on Bailey Avenue and Doat Street, which firefighters from both Engine 31 and Hook & Ladder 14 share, was palpably melancholy.

Lt. Paul C. Kneis of Engine 31, who shared the 2006 SPCA Award with Reed for rescuing an injured dog from a burning house, said many of Reed's fellow firefighters in Engine 31 were too racked with grief to articulate the depth of their feelings Monday.

Two firefighters from Hook & Ladder 14, returning from a call minutes later, were no less grief-stricken but willing to share how they felt about Reed. Firefighters Joseph M. Rankin and Gerald J. Sullivan objected to any references that spoke of him in the past tense.

"He's still a great guy," said Sullivan.

Rankin said Reed is viewed affectionately by the other firefighters in the firehouse as their kid brother.

"He's the youngest one of the bunch. He's caring [and] always the first one to jump in to do stuff," said Rankin.

Reed, an only child, was raised in West Seneca, friends said. A graduate of Bishop Timon-St. Jude High School and Buffalo State College, he volunteered as a firefighter for Union Fire Company in West Seneca in the early 1990s, working his way up to first-aid captain.

"He was very active in the fire service," recalled Steven Pollard, also a Union volunteer. "He wasn't just one of those people who was there to be there. He was up at all hours of the night for different calls.

"He loved what he did," said Pollard. "That's what he always wanted to do."

Monday afternoon, Reed's wife of three years, Nancy, and his parents, Edward and Barbara, remained at the hospital, where dozens of firefighters from across Western New York gathered to support them.

Among those visiting the hospital was Firefighter Clark Reinard, who was making his second visit to check on Reed.

"I think everyone is concerned," said Reinard, as he stood in the hospital's lobby. "He's a young, healthy man, and I have no doubt that will play a factor in his recovery."

The Rev. Joseph F. Moreno was one of several clergy who prayed with his family in the hospital Monday afternoon.

Moreno fondly remembered a moment last summer when Reed was among a group of firefighters displaying their truck to neighborhood children on the front lawn of St. Lawrence Catholic Church, 1520 E. Delavan Ave.

When one of those children, a 7-year-old boy, proclaimed he wanted to be a firefighter, Reed responded by picking up the boy to show him his fire truck. The boy squealed with delight.

"It was a special moment," recalled Moreno. "Mark showed the boy how the pumper works and showed him how the siren worked."

Fire officials say the fire in which Reed was injured was intentionally set shortly before 8 p.m. at 120 Wende, a vacant 2 1/2 -story house near Bailey Avenue and Genesee Street. The vacant house had about $20,000 damage.

Fire investigators are looking for the arsonist and are urging anyone with information to call the fire marshal's office, 851-4515. A $5,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the arsonist.

Mayor Byron W. Brown said the vacant house is a foreclosed property and is one of about 3,000 properties on the city's demolition list. He estimated more than 10,000 properties in Buffalo need to be demolished.

Rankin said the firefighters in both Engine 31 and Hook & Ladder 14 preferred to work Monday evening, even though they were offered a night off.

"We all chose to come back to work tonight and be together, because this is what it's all about, really. This is how we cope. We've already done about five or six runs, maybe a couple more fires tonight. You know, this is what we do. It kind of puts us at ease a little bit," Rankin said.


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