Westfield fire displaces 4 families, injures 8


Special to the OBSERVER

WESTFIELD – Items piled on a bedroom baseboard heater ignited to start a fire early Saturday that displaced four families according to Stephen Pacanowski, Westfield fire chief. Chautauqua County dispatch received a call at 6:45 a.m. for a structure fire at 19 Cottage St. in Westfield. According to Pacanowski, the timing of the early morning incident limited manpower at first, but once mutual aid was called, six more departments and the county’s technical rescue team responded to attack the blaze. The building, which housed four apartments, has been expanded with several additions in the past, making the fire more difficult to attack. “With multiple roofs and tin roofing on part of it, that kept a lot of the fire inside the attic area,” Pacanowski said. “It was hard to get to for at least an hour.”

Pacanowski said the majority of the fire was out by noon, but crews remained on the scene for nearly 11 hours watching hot spots, investigating the fire and helping the families remove property from the structure. He believed at least 10 people including four children were displaced by the fire with the Red Cross and other family members assisting them throughout the day Saturday.

Five residents were taken to Westfield Memorial Hospital and later to Erie County Medical Center for treatment of smoke inhalation, while another was taken to Westfield, treated and released. Two Westfield firefighters were injured while fighting the fire; the first treated for a back injury and released from Westfield hospital, while the second suffered a broken arm and was taken to an Erie hospital for further evaluation.

A week ago Saturday, a fire in Sinclairville was said to be more difficult to fight due to a tin roof, something Pacanowski noted is becoming more common.

“Tin roofs hold in the heat,” the chief said. “A normal shingle roof would burn through a lot quicker. When crews go inside with a tin roof, it’s a lot hotter. We have saws to cut through it, but it is harder.”

Westfield Fire Department was assisted on the scene by Brocton, East Dunkirk, Mayville, Ripley, Portland, Fredonia tanker and Alstar. The Red Cross is assisting the families affected.