Explosions, Fire Damage 9 Downtown Buffalo Firms
Arson investigators were looking into a three-alarm fire in downtown Buffalo, N. Y., that caused an estimated $150,000 damage to the Rich Building, scene of two previous fires in two months.
The blaze occurred early on a Sunday morning and witnesses who were in a bowling alley over a restaurant in the two-story brick building at Main and East Tupper Streets said they smelled gas for 10 minutes before an explosion buckled the floor.
The blast broke the big plate glass windows in the restaurant downstairs. Flames roared out and engulfed the building. About 100 restaurant and bowling alley patrons fled to safety.
The first alarm was pulled at 2:46 a.m., and was followed by a second at 2:49. An additional company was ordered at 4:04 and was followed by the third alarm at 4:17.
The third alarm was sounded after flames worked through false ceilings and got under the flooring of the bowling alleys, despite efforts of firemen who worked with gas masks. Freezing temperatures and icy pavement and equipment further hampered them. It was the city’s 25th multiple alarm fire during 1955.
Damaged, in addition to Red Grange’s Restaurant and the Franklin Bowling Center, were The Pizzeria, the branch bank of the Manufacturers & Trader’s Trust Co., the Poliak Paint Co., Inc., Poppenberg’s Pianos & Appliances, Noah’s Ark Auto Accessories, Inc., Allied Sewing Machines and the Koolvent Aluminum Awning Co.
Detective Sgt. Fred A. Thomasula, head of the police arson squad, said the fire may have been touched off. He said a one-gallon can filled with a substance believed to be lacquer, was found in the rear of Red Grange’s Restaurant, scene of two previously investigated fires, Oct. 26 and Nov. 26. Battalion Chief Charles J. Cammarata, first due chief, said the rapidly spreading fire apparently started in the restaurant.
Restaurant spokesmen told Sergeant Thomasula they had been working in the restaurant until 8 p.m. Saturday night, a few hours before the fire. They denied lacquer was being used. They further explained that repairs had just been completed after the last fire, which caused $500 damage; but the reopening had been delayed “because there was some question as to whether the owners of the building should pay for the repairs.”
The Oct. 26 fire caused $1500 damage to the restaurant, said Sergeant Thomasula, adding that a can of anti-freeze was found on the premises at that time and several simultaneous fires were burning. He further pointed out that a man was seen running from the rear of the building after an explosion blew out the windows.
The November 26 fire apparently was caused by someone who tossed a lighted cigarette between washroom partitions.