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Fire breaks out on couch at Erie County Board of Elections

A fire early Wednesday evening caused extensive damage to the downtown offices of the Erie County Board of Elections and Sheriff’s Office, although the upcoming Sept. 13 primary is not expected to be affected, officials said.

“I’m not really too concerned about the impact that this might have on elections, such as the upcoming primary,” Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz said late Wednesday. “But we do have to make certain that the building is safe and that it can be used for the Board of Elections and the Sheriff’s Office in the next few days.”

The board’s voting machines are stored at the Tri-Main Center on Main Street, he said.

The fire broke out just after 6 p.m. on the third floor of the building at 134 W Eagle St., in a small locked room off an office area, said Buffalo Fire Division Chief Michael Biasillo.

A couch in that room was found ablaze – and tossed out a window along the west side of the building by firefighters, to the street below.

“We’re looking at electrical but it’s going to take our fire investigators a little bit of time, a little more investigating before we narrow it down,” Biasillo said.

The fire was contained to the room, although there was “considerable” water damage on the third floor and floors beneath, as well as smoke damage throughout the building, he said.

Damage was estimated at $200,000 to the building and $75,000 to the contents.

Everyone made it out of the building safely, and Biasillo and county officials praised Patrick Murtha, a county maintenance worker in the building, for ensuring all employees got out.

“He took quite a bit of smoke, too,” the chief said. “I commend him. He did a good job getting everybody out.”

Firefighters left the scene about 7:30 p.m. while Buffalo fire investigators remained on site.

Poloncarz thanked Buffalo firefighters for a quick response and ensuring the fire didn’t spread. Board of Elections employees were there working overtime in preparation for the primary when the fire broke out, he said.

“Everyone acted appropriately,” he said. “I’m very pleased that no one from the Board of Elections was injured.”

The fire marked the second this week in an Erie County government building.

The Erie County highway garage in East Concord had an electrical fire that did limited damage around 7 a.m. Monday.

That fire was started by an electrical component plugged into a wall in the break room.

email: jpopiolkowski@buffnews.com

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