BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Many questions still linger about Wednesday’s fire on Main Street that claimed the life of Buffalo firefighter Jason Arno.
After Buffalo Fire Commissioner William Renaldo said that it is likely that construction workers used torches on the outside of the building that caused heat to seep inside and let the fire smolder, with the city’s department of permit and inspection services saying that there are no active or valid permits for that address, legal questions linger.
Attorney Barry Covert, who has no connection to the case, joined News 4 at 5 on Friday to give a legal perspective into the fire. You can watch the full segment above.
Covert said that if there was a permit necessary for that work, it could be a violation of zoning code.
“Was a permit required, did they obtain a permit,” Covert said. “Was a permit required for the type of work that the construction workers were doing outside the building, apparently using torches that could well have been responsible for the fire.”
Covert added that he believed that there would be some type of civil suit stemming from the fire.
“There’s almost no question that there’s civil negligence here. If whatever occurred was not an intentional act by those individuals that were outside the building, this was an unintentional act which really is the definition of civil negligence.”
He also said that a civil suit could involve the death of Arno, who lost his life on the job.
“It is possible that there is a lawsuit that includes going after the city if in fact the fire department didn’t give him the proper equipment, didn’t give him the proper training, didn’t have the correct number of firefighters show up at the scene, you don’t know,” Covert said. “The ATF is going to be able to give us an independent review and decide who is at fault. It could be many, many parties at fault.”
One of those parties could be the building owner, former Congressman Chris Jacobs. Jacobs sent a statement to News 4 saying that the workers who were working on the building were both licensed and insured.
“Criminally, the negligence has to be a much higher level of negligence than in a civil lawsuit. That’s what the statute specifically says,” Covert said. “So if they were properly licensed, they had all the proper permits, how did this happen?”
Aidan Joly joined the News 4 staff in 2022. He is a graduate of Canisius College. You can see more of his work here.