BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – A downtown building where a four-alarm fire led to a Buffalo firefighter’s death on March 1 is now the subject of a civil lawsuit.
743 Main Street LLC, owned by former congressman Chris Jacobs, is suing JP Contracting of WNY LLC for negligence and breach of contract.
The lawsuit alleges that JP employees performed work at 743 Main St. beyond the scope described in their contract and ultimately caused a fire that led to the death of city firefighter Jason Arno.
The lawsuit states Jacobs purchased the property on Dec. 15, 2022, and was in the process of rehabilitating the building when he hired JP Contracting of WNY LLC to complete masonry repairs.
The lawsuit states the masonry work was necessary after a small Feb. 6 earthquake allegedly damaged the interior and exterior of the building.
According to the lawsuit, JP’s first day was March 1 and some employees “used a torch or other similar device to melt snow and ice and prepare the location for masonry repairs.”
In addition to the torch, the lawsuit alleges JP employees used a leaf-blower to remove leaves and other debris from their work area.
“JP’s employees, agents and/or servants did not take caution in using these two devices in close proximity to the building,” the lawsuit states.
The plaintiff believes the torch ignited material inside and outside the building, and the leaf-blower “spread the flames and accelerated the flames through the interior of the building.”
The lawsuit states that JP’s employees were unaware that any materials ignited into flames inside the building.
Arno, 37, died fighting the fire. He left behind a wife and daughter.
Erie County District Attorney John Flynn in July deemed the incident an accident.
“It was stupid,” Flynn said, “but it’s not criminal.”
JP representatives could not be immediately reached for comment.