Authorities on Thursday identified the Buffalo firefighter killed in an explosive fire at a downtown building as Jason Arno, a 37-year-old married father. “This is a heartbreaking time for our city,” Mayor Byron Brown said in a statement. “Jason Arno showed his bravery and commitment to the fire service by donning his uniform and fulfilling his sworn duty to protect and serve the people of this city… Tragically, he lost his life while protecting others.”
Fire Commissioner William Renaldo told reporters Wednesday that Arno’s body emerged from the brick building hours after he was reported missing after an emergency evacuation order was issued early in the fire and four alarms were sounded. turn up. Arno was 30 to 40 feet (9 to 12 meters) inside when the partial collapse occurred, he said.
“We don’t know exactly how he passed away. We know he was in that immediate breakdown zone,” Reynaldo said. “A 911 call was made and the rest of our firefighters, the rescuers at the scene, had to evacuate the building immediately. Unfortunately, they were unable to rescue him at the time.” Reynaldo said the fire may have been smoldering for some time , it was noticed, believed to have sparked an explosive tailwind that firefighters were outside the building and snatched from his feet. Video showed flames erupting from the ground floor of the building before the explosion sent debris flying and firefighters engulfed in a cloud of ash.
“If the fire has been floating for a while and you suddenly add oxygen, it’s basically sucked into the building and blown back,” Reynaldo said.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but Reynaldo said workers had used blowtorches on the outside of the building before the blaze, and the heat may have been transferred inside through bricks or mortar, lit paper or other combustible materials. The building, which was a theater costume store, was unoccupied at the time of the fire, Reynaldo said.
Arno was a firefighter for three years. “Father, husband, son, brother and friend. Our deepest condolences to his family and those who loved and knew him,” the Buffalo Fire Department union said in a social media post. “We, the proud City of Buffalo Firefighters, will honor our fallen.”
Brown called for the city’s landmarks to be lit up in Arnold’s honor beginning Thursday. Flags across the city were flown at half mast.