“I saw what looked like a couple of logs near the building,” Damon said. “Flames were going up the side of the building and I yelled to my old lady to call 911.”
While she reported the fire, Damon said he ran back inside to get his dog and knocked on an adjoining apartment to alert a neighbor.
“My buddy lives back there,” Damon said. “His girlfriend was home and I yelled to her to get out because the building was on fire.”
Heat from the fire blew out the plate glass windows of the deli around 12:15 a.m., sending glass flying across Oliver Street. Wind blowing from the east sent smoke billowing toward Tonawanda Island.
Kozak said eight people were displaced by the fire. There are three apartments behind the deli that all incurred light smoke damage.
Damon said his apartment was not on fire when he retrieved his dog. Kozak confirmed that the fire did not reach the apartments.
There is one unit upstairs at 286 Oliver, where the roof caved in. Plasterers Local Union No. 9 has an office located on the ground floor.
The Red Cross is assisting all but one of the displaced tenants.
Damage was estimated at $675,000. Damage at 290 Oliver was listed as $100,000 to the building and $400,000 to its contents. The structure at 286 Oliver sustained $100,000 damage and another $75,000 to its contents.
The late night excitement attracted more than 100 onlookers, including patrons from local bars who spilled into Oliver Street to get a look at the firefighting efforts.
Police closed Oliver to traffic at Robinson Street to the north and Thompson Street to the south.
Firefighters brought the blaze under control at 1:17 a.m. and cleared the scene at 3:34 a.m.
Fire investigators conducted several interviews of witnesses and continue to probe the blaze’s cause.
City of Tonawanda firefighters staffed the Engine 4 fire station on Vandervoort Street during the fire while members of the Adams Fire Department staffed fire headquarters.
Contact night city editor John Hopkins
at 693-1000, ext. 150.