BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Buffalo's bravest had their hands full, with a fire at an empty church Saturday evening.
Almost every city firefighter who was at work around 6:00 PM raced to the vacant church at Tacoma and Colvin Avenues in North Buffalo, to battle the stubborn three-alarm blaze.
"[Firefighters discovered] very heavy smoke conditions upon arrival. It took a lot of manpower. Very intensive effort here, on the part of the crews," Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield assessed.
The fire appears to have started on the building's first floor, but it quickly spread into the rafters. Neighbors from several blocks away lined the sidewalks to watch, as firefighters gingerly made their way onto the roof and cut ventilation holes directly above the flames.
"I'm sitting here saying, 'I'm glad that's not me,'" said Matthew Baudo, who lives just up the block. "Because he's probably [in] the most dangerous at spot in the fire at that time, up on the roof. You never know when it's going to collapse. He's cutting it, he can go in."
>RELATED LINK: Photo gallery from the scene on Tacoma Avenue
It took firefighters close to an hour-and-a-half to contain the flames. Their biggest challenge was stopping the fire before it spread all the way up into the church's tower.
"We needed to cut off the fire; it was running the ridge here," Whitfield explained. "They cut off the fire, contained it to the rear of the building... it was a great stop. Had it progressed any longer or any further, we would've had to pull the crews out, for their own safety. It would've become a defensive fire, and we probably would've lost the structure."
That actually might have come as a relief to the neighbors.
For decades, the building was home to a Jewish temple. Since then, it has changed hands several times, most recently serving as the home of the Korean United Methodist Church. But in the years since it was abandoned, the church has become a hotbed for mischief.
"The kids have broken into the building," Baudo told News 4. "There's graffiti right over that one awning. That didn't happen by somebody getting on a ladder and painting that. They were in the building, came out the window, and sprayed it."
According to Baudo, the city has been pressing the building's owners to take better care of the property, but the owners simply don't have the financial wherewithall to keep it up.
"There's access to the building, [even though] the city has tried to seal it up," Baudo said. "It's an eyesore. We don't want graffiti around here. It's still a good, viable, nice neighborhood. We don't want this."
Firefighters did not find anyone inside the church when they arrived. The arson squad is helping to investigate the cause of the fire.
One firefighter had to be treated for an ankle injury.
Whitfield estimated the damage at $250,000.
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