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Damage from four-alarm fire exceeds $1 million

When the smoke clear from the spectacular four alarm fire on Buffalo’s East Side Tuesday afternoon, fire officials said they saw damages that exceeded $1 million.

Thick plumes of smoke could be seen for miles from the fire on Howard Street, just east of Fillmore Avenue.

All the walls of the two-story, brick warehouse at 463 Howard collapsed.

Firefighers were first called to the Babcock neighborhood at 1:30 p.m. for a reported car fire.

The fire in the two-story brick building broke out at about 3:30 p.m.

Robbie Said, who identified himself as the owner of the building, and a tenant both said they suspect an arsonist was responsible for the blaze.

But Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell W. Whitfield Jr. said the cause of the fire, one of the biggest in the city this year, has not been determined.

Damage to the building was estimated at $750,000 and damage to the contest, $500,00.

Said told officials he was in the process of renovating it for his moving business. He also said there is a car-detailing business in the rear of the 33,000-square-foot structure.

Several nearby frame houses were damaged by sparks and embers shooting out of the building. Firefighters were expected to remain into the evening.

Whitfield said 22 fire trucks were called to the scene and police blocked access to Howard Street from Fillmore Avenue to Metcalfe Avenue.

Whitfield said he was thankful no one, including firemen, was injured in the fire, but because of the heavy smoke put out by the burning building, air quality was being checked in that East Side area.

By about 6 p.m. fire crews were leaving the scene of the fire but the collapsed building was still being sprayed with water from a ladder truck parked on Howard Street.

Whitfield said utility company crews quickly came to the scene to cut power to the burning building, which made the job of fighting the fire easier.

Building owner Said bought the building about three months ago and was renovating it for his Gio On The Move moving company.

He said he initially had been called by city officials about 11 a.m. about someone burning wood near his building. He said he checked that out and had to come back about 1:30 p.m. for the car fire.

Said acknowledged he has had a continuing dispute about ownership of the building with Lauren Kashino and her boyfriend, Thomas Hooper, who had been operating a car-detailing business at the rear of the building for months.

Kashino, said her father, Vincent Stuchal, had been operating ATM Auto Glass in the building for about two decades.

Kashino said there was about $500,000 worth of auto glass, and $20,000 worth of equipment from her father’s old business on the third floor of the building and two vehicles also were destroyed in the fire.

Both Said and Kashino confirmed there is ongoing litigation about the ownership of the now-destroyed building.

Whitfield said fire investigators have leads about the possible origins of the fire “but no conclusions have been made” yet.

“The building is a total loss,” he added.