Tonawanda News

March 6, 2014

Fire-damaged shop to be demolished

Staff Reports
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — The Fletcher Street auto repair shop that was destroyed by a fast-moving fire Tuesday will be demolished, City of Tonawanda Fire Chief Charles Stuart said. 

“We are condemning the building due to its lack of structural stability and to maintain the safety of the area,” he said. 

Authorities notified the owner of the building and instructed him to complete the demolition Wednesday. Stuart said the owner seems willing to comply, but if the demolition does not take place soon, Tonawanda will hire a contractor to tear down the remains of the structure.

The fire started at 5:35 p.m. inside Swiderski Motorcar, at 294 Fletcher St. Stuart said the department is “fairly certain that the cause was a malfunction with an oil-burning stove that they were using for heat.” The structure sustained $100,000 worth of damage. 

Several city blocks were shut down Tuesday night while firefighters attempted to extinguish the blaze, and an adjacent multi-family home was also evacuated. 

Firefighters were forced to attack the fire from outside due to the presence of petroleum and tires at the shop, as well as questions about the building’s structural integrity. As a result, authorities were at the scene until 11:30 p.m. 

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 adjacent buildings did not incur any fire damage, but that one neighboring structure located at 290 Fletcher St. sustained damage to its electrical line.

“There was also about a foot-and-a-half of water in the basement that had some petroleum runoff in it,” Stuart said. 

The water line was above the furnace and water heater, so National Grid did not restore power to the home Tuesday night for safety reasons. 

“The heat wasn’t on, and the building was uninhabitable overnight,” Stuart said. “We pumped the basement out tonight and cleared out the oil, so they should be up and running now.”