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Family escapes, two cats rescued from wind-fueled fire

Two houses were destroyed when wind-whipped fire ripped through the buildings on Swinburne Street Monday afternoon, fire officials said.

Three adults and four children managed to escape on their own from 5 Swinburne.

Firefighter Paul Britzzalaro with Ladder 5 ran into the fire to rescue the family’s two cats, officials said. The other house, at 9 Swinburne, was vacant.

The two-alarm fire near the Central Terminal was reported at about 2 p.m. and it took Buffalo firefighters about an hour and a half to get the blaze under control because of the strong winds.

“It was too dangerous to go inside so we fought the fire from outside,” said Division Chief Patrick Britzzalaro, the brother of the firefighter who saved the cats.

Paul Britzzalaro managed to grab one of the cats in the living room and got it outside, he said. The other one started running up the stairs, but the firefighter caught it and carried it to safety.

Fire officials have not yet determined how or exactly where the fire started.

The vacant house was immediately torn down. Third Battalion Chief Mark Hillery said the other house would also be demolished, but not until the family had a chance to retrieve any belongings that were destroyed.

Damages to the houses was estimated at $135,000 to 5 Swinburne, $90,000 to 9 Swinburne.