Tonawanda News — A raging fire that began inside a City of Tonawanda auto shop sent dozens of firefighters to Fletcher Street Tuesday evening, shutting down several blocks of the street and decimating the structure.
The fire, at 294 Fletcher St., was believed to have started at approximately 5:35 p.m. inside Swiderski Motorcar in the middle of a residential neighborhood, causing the evacuation of an adjacent multi-unit home, as crews from the Town of Tonawanda, North Tonawanda and Grand Island rushed to the scene to assist.
City of Tonawanda Fire Chief Charles Stuart said the presence of petroleum and tires at the shop as well as questions about the building’s structural integrity forced firefighters to attack the blaze from the exterior, with several firefighters perched about 10 feet off the ground on a ladder truck extension, flooding the single-story building as flames shot through the roof and exterior walls glowed orange from the intense heat. Several other firefighters immersed the building with water at ground-level.
An individual who did not wish to identity himself but said he was at the scene when the fire started indicated he had stepped out of the building for “just a minute” to retrieve something from his vehicle and when he returned a small fire inside the shop quickly spread to a nearby car. Within seconds, he said, the building erupted into flames that rapidly spread.
“I saw smoke, ran inside and there was just a little fire,” he said, using his hands to describe an initial blaze of about a foot tall. “It spread fast and escalated from there. The police were here quick, like 40 seconds.”
Stuart said a small child believed to be about 5 years old was also seen looking through a second-story window next door to the auto shop as firefighters arrived moments after a 911 call was placed. Several emergency workers entered the apartment building and brought the child outside when her parents could not be located. However, it did not appear the fire caused damage to the nearby structure.