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Radio communication reveals fatal fire timeline in downtown Buffalo

The fire grew to 4 alarms Wednesday morning.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The fire on Main Street started just after 10 a.m. Wednesday, and in the span of about 26 minutes, it grew from 2 to 4 alarms, meaning more crews were called in.

The radio calls tell the story of how Buffalo firefighters responded as this emergency grew from 2 to 4 alarms.

Dispatch: "Balance of the second alarm. Respond to 745 Main between East Tupper and Goodell, it's a go for Engine 37, Engine 33, Ladder 15, Ladder 14, B44, B41, and B55."

Buffalo firefighters responded just after 10 a.m. Wednesday to the 700 block of Main Street, but the fire quickly grew, and the call went out for more crews to respond.

Firefighter on scene: "Command, F-11, most of the fire is in the rear of the building. Heavy fire conditions."

Just four minutes after the 2nd-alarm, it was escalated to a 3-alarm fire. 

Firefighter on scene: "Dispatch, give me a 3rd alarm over here. I want you to come in from Washington Street. We've got heavy fire. We've got heavy smoke blowing out here. It's turbulent smoke."

And just 15 seconds later ... 

Firefighter on scene: "Fire's got too much of a head start. We're going to pull them out. We're going to go defensive on this." 

Dispatch: "Copy. Standby for evacuation tones. All companies inside 745 Main, evacuate the building."

Within two minutes, firefighters reported the first of two backdrafts.

Firefighter on scene: "Possible backdraft. Everyone is OK at this time. Fire all three floors."

And then something awful ...

Dispatch: "We have a mayday reported from Engine 2 Bravo radio. We have a mayday being reported from Engine 2 Bravo radio. Engine 2 Bravo, what's your location?"

Then, more pleas for help ...

Firefighter on scene: "Who's calling for the mayday? Who's calling for the mayday?" 

Dispatch: "Engine 2 Bravo radio."

And about five minutes later ...

Firefighter on scene: "Confirmed missing member. We do have a confirmed missing member at this time."

The call for the 4th alarm came about 30 minutes in.

As this was all unfolding, dispatch and fire crews were also dealing with several other calls happening throughout the city. As they sent more people to Main Street, they were still responding to possible kitchen fires and medical emergencies in other places.

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