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Before 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, Lewiston fire companies were notified of flames coming from an electrical transformer in front of the two-story complex at 744, 746 and 748 Center St. Crews arrived on scene to find fire in the buildings, ultimately extending from the street level up through the roof. Utility companies were notified and cut off gas and electricity to mitigate further hazard or damage.
Though hot spots were still visible after 9 a.m., the fire was said to be contained. Cause and origin teams were on site to look into what triggered the blaze.
Officials on site said this incident was property-damage only. No residents or first responders were reported as injured.
These buildings are home to The Vintage Barber, Soully Created and Sue’s Frame of Mind on the street level, and residential units on the top floor. Vincenzo’s Pizza House also is connected, but was said to be spared fire harm thanks to interior wall protection.
The level of water or smoke damage to these sites is presently unknown.
In order to extinguish the fire, windows had to be broken and siding removed at The Vintage Barber and Soully Created. Much of the back roof was removed, as well.
In addition to the fire, emergency crews had to deal with significant winds and steady rain.
Center Street was closed from Seventh Street to Eighth Street to accommodate trucks and equipment, while also preventing the public from entering the scene. Crews also positioned themselves into the next-door plaza and onto Onondaga Street.
Local school bus companies were notified and advised to reroute pickups.
Fire Company Response
Lewiston Fire Co. No. 1 Chief Spencer Lilly released the following statement right after 11 a.m.
“Lewiston No. 1 firefighters were dispatched to a transformer fire at 746 Center St. at 6:08 a.m. The Lewiston No. 1 fire chief arrived shortly thereafter finding an evolved commercial structure with flames coming from the front of the building. Mutual aid brought in firefighters from Upper Mountain, Niagara Active, Youngstown, Niagara Air Base and Sanborn fire companies, along with placing Ransomville and Lewiston No. 2 fire companies on standby.
“Crews from Lewiston No. 1 were able to make entry into the multiple businesses and the second-floor apartment. Crews were later pulled out due to the unstable structure. Ladder trucks from Upper Mountain Fire, Niagara Active Hose and Sanborn Fire Co. were deployed in the front and rear of the structure and directed large water streams onto the fire. Ground crews worked using hand lines and master streams to stop the fire from spreading further. Crews worked throughout the morning to extinguish the blaze.
“The Niagara County Origin and Cause Team and Town of Lewiston fire investigators are investigating the incident further.
“EMS was staffed by Lewiston Fire Co. No. 1 advanced life support ambulances, providing rehab operations for the nearly 50 firefighters. No injuries occurred on scene.
“Additional aid on scene was provided by the Lewiston Police Department for traffic control.
“Tim Hortons Lewiston (located next door) donated hot coffee, doughnuts and breakfast sandwiches to the firefighters during this long operation.”
Center Street had reopened as of this statement.
Later in the day, items were removed from Sue’s Frame of Mind, and wooden boards were placed where the windows were removed from The Vintage Barber and Soully Created.
A condemnation letter was placed on each business. Village of Lewiston Building Inspector Ken Candella said that simply states the units are unsafe to be in; it doesn’t mean anything has to be torn down.
Vincenzo’s Pizza House proprietor Dave Munzi, meanwhile, said his eatery could reopen as soon as this weekend.
Though various videos of the block and what happened right as the fire began have popped up online and other places – fueling speculation as to what happened – Lilly said, “Although electrical equipment was involved in the fire, we have not determined that to be the cause of the fire. The fire is still being investigated at this time.”
Top images courtesy of Rich Bilson