The old armory was built for security, causing problems for forcible entry and ventilation. Inside the 300 X 920-foot structure were 120 vehicles and an 800-gallon gasoline truck . . .

A five-alarm fire raged through an armory for four hours before 200 fire fighters brought the blaze under control.

The first alarm was triggered at 8:54 p.m. last July 12 by a fire alarm system at the Buffab, N.Y., armory, bringing three engine companies, two ladder companies and a rescue company.

Smoke was coming from the secondfloor windows in the armory’s back 660foot section, which housed over 120 vehicles. The front 260 feet of the building contained offices, conference rooms, bowling aileys, a drill hall and storage areas. The two sections of the armory were divided by a 3-foot-thick fire wall. The administration wing of the armory was equipped with a sprinkler system, but the system was never expanded to the motor pool area.

Arriving units could not gain immediate access to the tightly secured armory because of its construction and the absence of guards. Therefore, fire fighters began an exterior attack. Engine 37 raised a 35-foot extension ladder to the second floor window and Engine 2 brought up a 1 3/4-inch preconnected line. Dual 2 1/2inch supply lines were laid from Engine 2 to a hydrant on the east side of Prospect St. and hooked on with soft suction. Ladder 9 raised its aerial to a third story window and a 2 1/2-inch preconnected line was advanced up the aerial from Engine 2 and put in operation.

Entry attempts

The 18 to 20-minute delay getting into the armory was considered a major factor in the fire’s spread. Fire officials believe that if they had been able to make a rapid interior attack, the fire would have been quickly controlled and the building saved.

A forcible entry was made through the armory’s front doors, which were chained. Engine 16 hooked up to a hydrant at the southwest corner of Connecticut and Prospect Sts. and stretched a 2 1/2-inch line through the front doors. Engine 21 hooked up to a hydrant with soft suction on the southeast corner of Connecticut and Prospect. Engine 19 hooked up to a hydrant at the southwest corner of Niagara and Connecticut Sts. and supplied 2 1/2 and 1 3/4-inch lines inside the front of the building. These lines were used to protect the office area.

An attempt was made by Fire Commissioner Fred Langdon and Fire Fighter Ted Meldenado to open the overhead door at the rear of the armory in order to place portable deluge sets to cut off the fastmoving fire. An armory official, who had arrived at the scene, had given Langdon a key which would activate the door’s electrical switch from inside. The men entered the building from a door on Prospect near Connecticut St. The overhead door failed to open and the men were trapped. Using his radio, Langdon alerted fire fighters outside the armory of their location. The fire fighters were able to raise the door manually from outside enough for Langdon and Meldenado to crawl to safety.

Aftermath of the armory fire. Wall, in the upper portion of the photograph, prevented the fire from extending into the front section of the armory.

Buffalo Evening News Photo by Barney Kerr

Buffalo Fire fighters use circular saw for forcible entry

—Copyrighted photo by Sammy DiVincenzo.

Cutting torches and circular saws were used in a forcible entry attempt through the metal doors on Prospect St. Engine 13, a 1250-gpm pumper equipped with a 55foot Telesqurt, hooked up to a hydrant at the southeast corner of Vermont and Prospect Sts. with soft suction, and two 2 1/2-inch lines were hand laid to the doors. Ladder 12, a 100-foot aerial special-called to the fire, was positioned by the metal doors. Its aerial was raised to the roof and the ladder pipe put into operation with two 2 1/2-inch lines laid from Engine 13. These forcible entry operations were ultimately abandoned after it became apparent that the fire was out of control.

The fire’s intensity also forced fire fighters to abandon attempts to ventilate the roof. One fire fighter was trapped on the roof and had to be rescued by aerial.

Even though lines were directed in windows on three sides of the building, it was impossible to get to the seat of the fire. Contributing to the rapid fire spread were flying brands being given off by a fire storm.

Numerous 1 1/2 and 1 3/4 -inch lines were used to wet down frame houses on Prospect St., and a three-block area around the armory was evacuated because of an 800-gallon gasoline tank truck located in the armory’s northeast corner. The entire rear portion of the armory was fully involved, and an exterior attack using aerial master streams, deck guns and portable deluge sets were initiated for fire fighter safety. Many of the vehicles gasoline tanks had exploded, causing fireballs to go over 100 feet in the air.

Fire was beginning to penetrate through the fire wall into the front section of the armory. To stop the fire extension, 2 1/2inch lines were stretched in on all three floors.

Under control

At 10:45 p.m., the entire roof over the rear section of the armory collapsed. This allowed greater access to the interior by the elevated master streams from the six aerial ladders, one elevating platform and one Telesqurt that surrounded three sides of the structure. By continuous pumping to these eight devices, plus the many other deluge sets and 2 1/2 -inch hand lines, the fire was declared under control at 12:15 a.m.

Fire fighters remained on the scene for 36 hours and crews returned to the scene for the next two days due to the deepseated spot fires.


Estimated damage was $5.5 million to the building and $3.5 million to the contents. At the time of writing, the cause of the fire had not been determined.

Fire fighting operations were assisted by the fact that a city water pumping station was located only a few blocks from the fire; thus the large mains in the area eliminated water supply problems. Adequate streams were another asset in bringing the fire under control and protecting surrounding residential structures, as was the quick sounding of additional alarms.

Fire fighters prepare ladder pipe for operation

photo by Cliff Perisigke

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