BUFFALO, N.Y. — Buffalo Fire Department officials have identified the firefighter killed while battling a massive four-alarm fire in downtown Buffalo Wednesday as Jason Arno, 37, of Engine Company 2.

What You Need To Know

  • City officials say a firefighter died while battling a four-alarm fire in downtown Buffalo Wednesday

  • Officials identified the firefighter as Jason Arno, 37, a married father

  • Buffalonians are standing with the Buffalo Fire Department following their loss

  • Mayor Byron Brown has directed all City of Buffalo flags to fly at half-staff

Arno had been a firefighter for three years, was married over the summer and had a 3-year-old daughter, Fire Commissioner William Renaldo said.

“The whole future in front of him and an exemplary firefighter and employee,” Renaldo said. “Just a great all-around person.”

BFD officials released a statement Thursday, saying:

"It is with the deepest regret and sorrow that we announce the Line of Duty Duty death of Firefighter Jason Arno of Engine Company 2, Buffalo Fire Department," BFD officials said in a statement Thursday. "Firefighter Arno made the ultimate sacrifice while bravely battling a fierce 4 alarm fire on the 700 block of Main Street in the heart of downtown Buffalo. His tragic loss is a painful reminder of the dangerous and extremely difficult work Buffalo Firefighters do every day. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends and fellow Firefighters for the heartbreaking loss of an extraordinary young man who committed his life to the service of others."


Photo of Jason Arno, courtesy of City of Buffalo

Firefighters responded to the building, located at 745 Main Street in the Theater District, around 10 a.m. Wednesday, according to Renaldo.

Arno’s body was recovered from the brick building several hours after he was reported missing early on in the fire. Renaldo said Arno was 30 to 40 feet (nine to 12 meters) inside when he issued a mayday call, which led to the emergency evacuation of everyone inside. Arno was not heard from again.

On Thursday, Renaldo said the building was relatively clear when firefighters entered it, but firefighters soon were faced with not only a partial collapse but an explosive backdraft that sent flames, smoke and debris shooting from the first floor windows and knocked firefighters outside to the sidewalk.

Renaldo said the abrupt introduction of oxygen when a fire is smoldering can cause the oxygen to be "sucked into the building and blown back.”

“A backdraft is a very rare occurrence,” Renaldo said at a news conference. “The building was clear, which is the case many times when we enter a structure. So it was safe to enter at the time and the chief made that determination. I cannot say there were any mistakes made at that fire.”

While the cause remains under investigation, Renaldo on Wednesday speculated that heat from blowtorches being used on the building’s exterior may have transferred through brick or mortar and ignited paper or other combustibles inside.

Demolition of the building has been suspended, Mayor Byron Brown said, while the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and New York state fire officials assist the Buffalo Fire Department in conducting a review. Renaldo added it is not unusual for ATF and state fire officials to be involved in investigations.

Brown released a statement Thursday, saying:

“This is a heartbreaking time for our city. Yesterday, 37-year-old Buffalo Firefighter Jason Arno showed his bravery and commitment to fire service by putting on his uniform and carrying out his sworn duty to protect and serve the residents of this city. Tragically, he lost his life protecting others. I share my deepest sympathies with everyone who knew and loved him. I ask all City residents to keep his family, and the entire Buffalo Fire Department, in your prayers during this difficult time.” 

Brown requested that city landmarks be lit in red in Arno's honor beginning Thursday. City flags were flying at half-staff.

Gov. Kathy Hochul released a statement on Twitter Wednesday, saying:

"I am heartbroken by this devastating tragedy in Buffalo. My prayers are with the loved ones of the brave fallen firefighter and the entire Buffalo Fire Department. I have spoken with Mayor Brown to offer any support that is needed.”

This is the first line of duty death in the Buffalo Fire Department in nearly 14 years.

On Aug. 24, 2009, Lt. Charles “Chip” McCarthy and firefighter Jonathan Croom died after responding to a fire at the Super Speedy Deli on Genesee Street.

McCarthy, who was a member of Rescue One, went into the building after there were reports of a person trapped in the basement, but fell through the floor during a partial collapse of the building. Croom, who was with Ladder 7, went in to try to save McCarthy, but both men were eventually found dead inside.

Lt. McCarthy was a 22-year veteran of the Buffalo Fire Department, while Firefighter Croom was with the department for 10 years.

The Main Street building held DC Theatricks, a professional theatrical costume rental company for stage plays and musicals. They posted a statement on their official Facebook page Wednesday, which reads:

"Our family at DCTHEATRICKS would like to say thank you to the Buffalo Fire Department who worked tirelessly today in an effort to save our shop. Our hearts go out to the family of the young man who lost his life battling that horrific blaze. God bless all of you. We will be forever in your debt.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.