Downtown Falconer Faces Second Major Fire In Less Than A Year; 11 People Displaced

FALCONER — A scene no one in the Falconer community wished to see again was on display Sunday. Fire departments responded once more to downtown Falconer for a reported structure fire with entrapment just after 11 a.m.

Smoke was seen for miles around, billowing out of the Falconer Vac Shop building as fire personnel arrived on scene. The situation was eerily familiar to when fire broke out just two buildings away in March, taking down an entire section of Falconer’s buildings.

Fire departments responded from across the county, including Kennedy, Busti, Falconer, Jamestown, Kiantone, Gerry, Chautauqua and Randolph, among others. Police officers and other emergency personnel were also on the scene.

Falconer Mayor James Rensel called the fire “a tragedy.” He said 11 people have been displaced by the fire thus far.

“We don’t know what started it yet, but I’m sure there will be an investigation,” Rensel said. “Most importantly, there was no one hurt, no one was trapped inside.”

Rensel said the community has already begun to come together due to the blaze.

Falconer Central School District Superintendent Stephen Penhollow and Todd Beckerink, president of the school board, help to open the school for the displaced families to take shelter in.

“We (the school district) work hand-in-hand with the community,” Beckerink said. “The mayor asked that we use the school (as a temporary shelter).”

The Salvation Army and the Red Cross were able to set up there in the cafeteria of the school. Beckerink said the school, Salvation Army, Honest John’s Pizzeria and the Falconer Fire Department have provided food for those who were displaced. He noted that community members have also donated a variety of other items.

“You name it, lots of things have been donated,” Beckerink said.

At least two of the 11 people who were displaced by the fire are known to be children.

“They weren’t even students at Falconer yet,” Beckerink said. “They just moved here, and were going to be signed up Tuesday, I think.”

While the fire is disheartening, Rensel said, “the village will make it through.”

“It’s a sickening feeling, but, we’re resilient,” he said. “We’ll take care of what needs to be taken care of.”

County Executive George Borrello was on the scene on Sunday. He said he hurried away from an event in Silver Creek to get there.

Borrello said the fire was surely heartbreaking, especially given the circumstances.

“Just being less than a year since the major fire that was here last year, this is certainly devastating for the village,” Borrello said. “Certainly, we’ll do anything we can at the county level to help out.”

He said the cause of the fire is unknown at the moment, but an investigation will be underway.

“The fire is obviously under control but still burning,” Borrello said.

Borrello said he had been told one firefighter had a minor injury, but had been taken to the hospital.

To maintain safety of the public, Borrello said people should try to avoid the area as best as possible.

“The best thing to do is stay away,” he said. “This is already a pretty crowded scene to begin with. I would tell people to please be respectful of our emergency services folks.”

The Red Cross and the Salvation Army were working Sunday evening to find temporary housing for those who were displaced.The families will not be staying at Falconer Central School.

“Our entire district supports the community,” Beckerink said. “The school is the community. When the rubber meets the road, we’re all in it together. I feel sad for the kids that are involved.”