A fire ripped through a house on Garner Avenue on Buffalo's West Side Monday, then quickly spread to a house next door, heavily damaging both houses and leaving two families without homes.
The two-alarm fire seemed to bring the entire neighborhood out, as firefighters tried to battle the two fires amid gusty breezes.
Kyle Garshnick, who lives across the street, said he and his roommate Brandon Stewart were upstairs when they heard shouting and the beeping of what turned out to be fire alarms.
"We thought it was a fight," Garshnick said.
They ran outside and saw a family running out of the burning house at 84 Garner. It was clear the fire was spreading to the next house, at 80 Garner.
Soon, another family came running out of the second house, including young children who had no shoes or even socks on their feet.
"I saw a lady fall to her knees crying," Garshnick said. He was video-chatting with his mother at the time, who also burst into tears at the sight.
Arriving at the scene to help the families was a caseworker from the International Institute. She said both houses were homes to large, extended families. She expected that the International Institute would help raise money to relocate the families to new housing.
Dozens of neighbors came pouring out of their homes to watch the firefighters in action.
"The whole neighborhood is out here," Garshnick said, looking at the clumps of crowds watching and snapping photos with their cellphones. "Social distancing at its finest."
But he said neighbors were doing all they could to help.
He saw someone come running down the street with sweatshirts and blankets for the displaced families.
"Everybody tries to help each other out here," Stewart said.
Kristin Coleman, who lives around the corner on Dewitt, brought her daughters to see what was happening.
"My whole block was full of smoke," she said.
Valerie Duprey, 6, put on her favorite firefighter costume and played in her driveway as the fire trucks with their lights swirling filled her street. Once the fire died down, her mother brought her over to meet some of the firefighters.
The cause of the fire was under investigation as of Monday night.
Michael J. DeGeorge, a spokesman for Buffalo police and fire, said in an email late Monday that firefighters responded to a fire call at about 5:50 p.m. at 84 Garner.
The incident resulted in 17 people from the 84 Garner address being helped by the Red Cross, DeGeorge said. Officials say the damage to the home is estimated at $60,000.
There was also $140,000 worth of damage to 80 Garner from exposure, according to DeGeorge.
Flames now shooting out the roof pic.twitter.com/moguTjbEby
— Maki Becker (@makibecker) May 18, 2020