BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – The widow of a Buffalo firefighter who died earlier this year while battling a four-alarm blaze at a commercial building downtown has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against four defendants.
Jason Arno, 37, died March 1 while fighting a fire at 743 Main St., a three-story commercial building in downtown Buffalo.
A report by federal fire investigators states city firefighters reported Arno missing shortly after they were ordered to evacuate the collapsing structure. Arno got trapped inside and died.
Sarah-Elizabeth L. Tierney’s lawsuit alleges that the negligence and carelessness of the City of Buffalo, the fire department, 743 Main Street LLC — an entity owned by former congressman Chris Jacobs — and JP Contracting of WNY, caused Arno’s death.
News 4 reported in September that 743 Main Street LLC filed a civil lawsuit against JP Contracting alleging breach of contract and negligence for failing to “take caution” when using a leaf blower and torch to melt snow and ice.
The lawsuit states the torch ignited nearby material, and the leaf blower helped “spread the flames and accelerated the flames through the interior of the building.”
Among the complaints in Tierney’s wrongful death lawsuit is that the property did not have “proper fire extinguishing within easy reach of the workers near combustible material.”
The Erie County District Attorney’s Office did not file any charges as a result of Arno’s death.
A report by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives ruled the fire started just inside the north doorway to DC Theatricks and the cause was the use of a propane torch near “common combustibles” such as bags of cloth material and plywood inside the north doorway. The ATF deemed the fire accidental.
“It was stupid,” Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said during a July press conference, “but it’s not criminal.”
Wednesday evening, former congressman Chris Jacobs released the following statement:
My family continues to keep the Arno family in our thoughts and prayers. At the same time, I fully respect the family’s right to take legal action over this awful tragedy. However, there are several claims about my company’s actions or omissions with the building, which I owned for only 10 weeks, that I believe are inaccurate, but now is not the time to challenge these claims. I pride myself as being a responsible real estate developer as demonstrated by the success of several buildings and properties on Main Street. My goal was to fully restore 743 Main Street in a similar fashion. This is a tragedy that continues to deeply sadden my family and as the matter is now in the process of being litigated, it would be inappropriate for any further comment at this time.”Former congressman Chris Jacobs