FALCONER – Investigators with the Chautauqua County Fire Investigation team say they are unable to determine the exact cause of the fire that broke out just before noon Sunday, Jan. 14 at the Falconer Vac Shop building, located at 15 W. Main Street. However, investigators also say that while they have to rule the cause as “undetermined” they also say nothing appears suspicious.
The fire was reported at 11:55 a.m. Sunday in the village and crews immediately responded to the scene to find smoke billowing from the upper floor of the four story building. Shortly after the building was fully involved in a number of other fire companies were called to the scene to assist. In all four ladder trucks were on hand to attack the fire on high, while several other pumper trucks were also there to attack the blaze from the ground. The fire was under control by 1 p.m. but not until the upper floor was completely destroyed, along with significant water damage to the remaining floors of the building.
A total of 16 people were living in the building, with 11 of them inside when the fire broke out. All were able to make it out safely. Fire investigators also report that one of the second floor tenants had three cats and were unable to get them out of the building when the fire was reported. However, fire crews were able to access the second floor on Monday and were able to locate the three cats, all of which were able to survive the ordeal and were returned safely to their owners.
In addition to the residents, at least two businesses were affected, with both the Vac Shop and Roots Hair Salon. The Blue Fin pet shop was also impacted by the fire, but none of the animals inside were reported hurt.
HELP NEEDED FOR FIRE VICTIMS
Falconer officials used the Town of Ellicott Police Facebook page to thank those who’ve helped out and also provide an update on the effort to help the residents displaced by the fire. They say clothes can be dropped off at East Side Fellowship Club, located at 322 Woodlawn Avenue in Jamestown.
According to the Post-Journal, lothing sizes needed for men include: large, extra-large, small and medium shirts, shoes in size 8.5, 9 and 10, as well as pants in size 30 by 32, 34 by 32 and 31 by 30. For women, the clothing needs are: size 12, 14, 6 and 8 in pants, size extra-large, 1X, medium and large in shirts and size 7, 7.5 and 8 in shoes.
Monetary donations are also being collected by Bob Caldwell – owner of the The Hogg Shop – at 15 E. Main Street in Falconer.
Those who have been displaced are also in need of permanent homes and are looking for apartments available in the Falconer area. To share information on available apartments, call Lisa Piazza at 450-5796.
As for the investigation, officials say an on scene fire investigation was conducted by several members of the team on Sunday and it continued on Monday as well. Several interviews of tenants and witnesses were completed and a hands-on scene investigation was done with help from the Falconer Fire Department Ladder Truck and by fire investigators navigating on the third floor where the building had not collapsed yet.
The fire investigation team was able to determine the fire started in the attic area near the south/center of the building. As stated earlier, the actual cause of the fire could not be determined due to the damage of the building and the potential for the building to collapse, which both hindered the investigation.
As a result of the fire and due to safety reasons, the section of W. Main St. near the scene has been closed to traffic and will likely remain closed for the next several days.
Both the insurance companies and village code enforcer will also inspect damage to determine if any portion of the building can be saved or if it must be completely demolished.
The fire comes less than a year after another fire broke out on the same block. That fire was caused by arson and the individual believed to be responsible for the 2017 fire, Jonathan Young, remains in custody in Butler County, Pennsylvania to await court proceedings for an arson case that took place there.