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Fire at Evans Bank branch in Lancaster deemed ‘suspicious’

A fire that caused an estimated $500,000 damage at a bank branch in Lancaster was being treated Sunday night as “suspicious,” authorities said.

The fire, which was reported at about 5:45 p.m., is believed to have started near the entryway of the Evans Bank branch on Transit Road, said Twin District Fire Chief Jim Koral.

Flames and heavy smoke were pouring out of a broken-out window next to the entrance, said Koral, who was one of the first firefighters to arrive on scene.

“The building didn’t have an alarm system as far as we could tell, and it didn’t have a sprinkler system in it,” he said. “We were at a disadvantage initially because it’s a light-truss construction building, and once the fire got into the attic, or crawl space, it started ballooning out very quickly.”

The fire was extinguished after about 15 minutes and damage was listed at $400,000 to the building at 4979 Transit and $100,000 to its contents. Firefighters were evacuated from the building shortly after the fire was called under control because of concerns about the roof.

“We evacuated firefighters from the building initially because we saw the roof was starting to get spongy and we wanted to make sure it was safe for us to send our men back in,” Koral said.

The fire didn’t reach the bank’s vault area, he added. Two arson investigators were at the scene Sunday night along with a town building inspector.

“Right now, the building is not structurally sound to be inhabited,” Koral said.

Other companies that assisted at the scene came from the Village of Lancaster, Village of Depew, South Line, Bellevue and Lancaster Volunteer Ambulance Corps. No injuries were reported.

Officials said the bank branch will be closed indefinitely because of the extensive damage.

Customers of the Lancaster branch were encouraged to visit any other Evans Bank branch location, including West Seneca, Clarence and Williamsville.

Employees of the closed location are being temporarily reassigned to the Williamsville Branch, at Main Street and North Forest Road, according to a statement from Evans Bank.

“This branch is an important part of our franchise, so we will make every effort to re-establish banking operations in this area as soon as possible,” said David J. Nasca, president and CEO of Evans Bancorp and Evans Bank. “While we are disappointed in the loss of property, we are pleased to report that the building was empty at the time of the fire, so no injuries resulted from it.”

email: jpopiolkowski@buffnews.com