Buffalo firefighters Saturday evening pulled an immigrant mother and her two young children from a burning home on Military Road before the second floor of the building collapsed.
No injuries were reported in the two-alarm blaze that began in a vacant bar next door to the 2.5-story house where the family was living.
Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell W. Whitfield Jr. said the situation could have turned out much worse. The rescue was complicated by a language barrier between firefighters and the occupants of the home, believed to be Burmese immigrants who did not speak English.
“It was a very difficult rescue,” said Whitfield. “It was very difficult to get them to leave the building.”
A team of five firefighters in the rescue unit couldn’t convince the children to get out of the house as quickly as possible. The ages of the children were not known as of late Saturday.
“They were afraid and they didn’t want to leave,” said Whitfield. “Our guys literally ended up grabbing them and carrying them out of the building.”
Thick smoke wafted north on Military Road, toward Lawn Avenue, as firefighters used three ladder trucks to douse flames shooting from both structures. Dozens of residents from a neighboring apartment complex lined Military Road and shot video and photographs with mobile phones.
“They told us to get out because of the smoke,” said Anthony Mazone, who lives in the complex just north of the fire. “Ashes were spilling right over.”
The fire was located north of Hertel Avenue and across the street from the copper and brass plate manufacturing plant Aurubis Buffalo. It was reported shortly before 8 p.m. Neighbors said the bar at 435 Military hadn’t been in operation for many years. A sign outside read “The Dance Party Bar.”
Whitfield said both buildings suffered extensive damage, but he was glad the family was safe.
“Anytime we are able to mitigate this without loss of life or any major injuries is a good day for us,” he said.
The two-family house at 433 Military had a previous fire in December 1999, according to The News archives.
The American Red Cross Western New York Chapter tweeted late Saturday that two of its volunteers were assisting a family of seven after the fire.