No criminal charges in fatal Buffalo fire that killed firefighter who was trapped

Jul 6, 2023, 11:02 AM

FILE - Buffalo firefighters adjust their approach from above at a massive blaze that claimed the li...

FILE - Buffalo firefighters adjust their approach from above at a massive blaze that claimed the life of Buffalo Firefighter Jason Arno on March 1, 2023, in Buffalo, N.Y. The explosive fire in a Buffalo costume shop where a firefighter became trapped and died has been ruled accidental and no criminal charges will be filed, a prosecutor said Thursday, July 6, 2023. (Derek Gee/The Buffalo News via AP, File)

(Derek Gee/The Buffalo News via AP, File)

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — An explosive fire in a Buffalo costume shop that killed a firefighter who was trapped has been ruled accidental and no criminal charges will be filed, a prosecutor said Thursday.

An investigation found that the March 1 fire began when a blowtorch used on the brick exterior of the three-story building ignited bags of clothing inside, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said at a news conference.

The fire sparked at least two explosions that knocked firefighters who were outside the building off their feet, and sent smoke and debris billowing into the downtown street. Fire Commissioner William Renaldo described an explosion caught on video as a backdraft, which he said occurs when oxygen is “sucked into the building and then blown back.”

It was after the first explosion and an evacuation order that firefighters determined firefighter Jason Arno, who had issued a mayday call, was missing. Flynn said firefighters went back in and found him trapped by a metal clothing rack but could not free him before a second explosion forced them back out of the building.

“A clothing rack must have fallen on top of him,” Flynn said, “and his foot and leg got tied in to the metal rod on a clothing rack and he was stuck and they couldn’t get him out.”

His body was recovered about 3 1/2 hours after the fire was reported. He died of smoke inhalation and burns, Flynn said.

Arno, 37, had been married over the summer and had a 3-year-old daughter. He had been with the fire department for three years.

Investigators determined that the contractors using the blowtorch had used a metal shovel to direct the flame away from a plywood door but that a spark likely traveled underneath the door and ignited clothing, Flynn said. In ruling out criminal charges, the prosecutor said there was no evidence the workers had disregarded the potential danger of using the blowtorch to melt snow and ice from the sidewalk and building before beginning masonry work.

“It’s stupid but not criminal,” he said.

The building, empty except for the costume shop, had been purchased four months earlier by former U.S. Rep. Chris Jacobs.

National News

Associated Press

Heat has forced organizers to cancel Twin Cities races that draw up to 20,000 runners

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A forecast that record high temperatures and humidity would create “extreme and dangerous” conditions prompted organizers to cancel two long-distance races Sunday in Minnesota’s two largest cities that were expected to draw up to 20,000 runners. The Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon from Minneapolis to neighboring St. Paul had been expected to draw […]

1 hour ago

File - The Southern University Human Jukebox marching band warms up before the 2023 National Battle...

Associated Press

Federal student loan payments are starting again. Here’s what you need to know

NEW YORK (AP) — Federal student loan borrowers will need to start making payments again this month after a three-year-plus pause due to the pandemic. You should expect a bill that lays out how much you have to pay each month at least 21 days before your due date. It’s likely that most borrowers have […]

2 hours ago

FILE - Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., appears before the House Rules Committee to propose amendments to t...

Associated Press

Gaetz says he will seek to oust McCarthy as speaker this week and calls for new House leadership

WASHINGTON (AP) — Rep. Matt Gaetz said Sunday he will try to remove House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a fellow Republican, from his leadership position this week after McCarthy relied on Democratic support to pass legislation that avoided a government shutdown. Gaetz, a longtime McCarthy nemesis, said McCarthy was in “brazen, material breach” of agreements he […]

2 hours ago

FILE - Chester County, Pa. election workers process mail-in and absentee ballots at West Chester Un...

Associated Press

Pennsylvania governor’s voter registration change draws Trump’s ire in echo of 2020 election clashes

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Donald Trump has a familiar target in his sights: Pennsylvania’s voting rules. He never stopped attacking court decisions on mail-in ballots during the COVID-19 pandemic, falsely claiming it as a reason for his 2020 loss in the crucial battleground state. Now, the former Republican president is seizing on a decision by […]

4 hours ago

FILE - The U.S. Supreme Court is seen, Wednesday, Aug 30, 2023, in Washington. The new term of the ...

Associated Press

The Supreme Court’s new term starts Monday. Here’s what you need to know

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court seems a bit quieter than in recent years, as the justices begin a new term. Major cases await, as they always do, including several challenges to regulatory agencies and efforts to regulate social media platforms. But nothing yet seems on par with conservative-driven decisions overturning Roe v. Wade’s right […]

4 hours ago

Run by a private firm hired by the city, migrants stay in a makeshift shelter at O'Hare Internation...

Associated Press

Chicago is keeping hundreds of migrants at airports while waiting on shelters and tents

CHICAGO (AP) — Hidden behind a heavy black curtain in one of the nation’s busiest airports is Chicago’s unsettling response to a growing population of asylum-seekers arriving by plane. Hundreds of migrants, from babies to the elderly, live inside a shuttle bus center at O’Hare International Airport’s Terminal 1. They sleep on cardboard pads on […]

11 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife...

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

September is a busy month on the sports calendar and also holds a very special designation: Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

Ziply Fiber...

Dan Miller

The truth about Gigs, Gs and other internet marketing jargon

If you’re confused by internet technologies and marketing jargon, you’re not alone. Here's how you can make an informed decision.

Education families...

Education that meets the needs of students, families

Washington Virtual Academies (WAVA) is a program of Omak School District that is a full-time online public school for students in grades K-12.

Emergency preparedness...

Emergency planning for the worst-case scenario

What would you do if you woke up in the middle of the night and heard an intruder in your kitchen? West Coast Armory North can help.

Innovative Education...

The Power of an Innovative Education

Parents and students in Washington state have the power to reimagine the K-12 educational experience through Insight School of Washington.

Medicare fraud...

If you’re on Medicare, you can help stop fraud!

Fraud costs Medicare an estimated $60 billion each year and ultimately raises the cost of health care for everyone.

No criminal charges in fatal Buffalo fire that killed firefighter who was trapped